The Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court ruled on January 22, 2024, that the return of Moroccan minors from Ceuta to Morocco was illegal due to the failure to comply with procedural requirements under Spanish law. Around twelve thousand people, including approximately fifteen hundred minors, entered Ceuta on May 17th and 18th, 2021. The minors were housed and placed under the legal guardianship of the Ceuta regional administration for three months without individualized procedures to determine their circumstances and needs.
In August 2021, Spanish and Moroccan authorities agreed on the minors’ return to Morocco based on a 2007 cooperation agreement. However, the Supreme Court found that returning unaccompanied minors in an irregular situation must comply with Spanish legislation, which mandates individual administrative procedures, information disclosure, hearings, and involvement of the public prosecutor. The Court emphasized that exceptional circumstances do not justify bypassing procedural guarantees, and that the return of unaccompanied minors in an irregular situation cannot be based solely on the Agreement between Spain and Morocco but must also comply with Spanish legislation (Articles 35 and 191 of Organic Law 4/2000 (ENG) and Royal Decree 557/2011 (ENG).