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The Spanish Administration distrusts the passports of Gambian minors


Highlights: The Spanish Administration distrusts the passports of Gambian minors. “We don't always get it right, but there are abuses and the few who tell the truth pay the price,” says a police source. The case of Lamin, who has just turned 17, according to his passport, is paradigmatic. For the Spanish authorities he is an adult and they do not allow him to be in a center for minors, but when he has gone to the social services that care for the homeless they have not admitted him.

A police report sows widespread doubts about dozens of teenage migrants who undertake an odyssey to be believed. Treated like adults, they end up on the street

The cases accumulate and are very similar.

A young man arrives in a canoe to the Canary Islands, he is from Gambia and says that he is a minor.

Sooner or later he will present his passport and the embassy itself may even issue a certificate of authenticity, but the verdict will almost always be the same: his document is false.

The Gambian minors who are disembarking on the islands are encountering an added difficulty: no one believes them.

A technical report from the Scientific Police has raised doubts about the veracity of Gambian passports and, although these would require an individual analysis, in practice generalized suspicion applies.

The result is that agents and prosecutors repeatedly doubt the identity of young people from the African country, forcing them to undertake an odyssey to prove that they are minors.

And that is, if they are lucky enough to find a lawyer who will defend them;

In most cases, it is assumed that they are adults and are at risk of ending up on the streets.

“The passport may be real, but the data is not always real, because they have paid to have it,” warns a police source.

“We don't always get it right, but there are abuses and the few who tell the truth pay the price,” she says.

Legal sources consulted do not doubt that there may be irregularities with Gambian passports, but they also warn of the helplessness of the kids in the face of widespread suspicion.

“If you want to question the validity of an official passport issued by a country that Spain recognizes as a sovereign State, the only way to do so is to individually challenge those documents that show signs of falsity,” explains a source familiar with these. cases.

It coincides with the jurisprudence already established by the Supreme Court.

More information

The UN intervenes to remove a minor from the street who arrived in a canoe to the Canary Islands

One of those who seems to have paid the price is Ibrahim, the fictitious name of a Gambian whose passport says he is 14 years old.

His case became public last week after Fundación Raíces denounced his situation before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Madrid Juvenile Prosecutor's Office had studied Ibrahim's file, which included a passport he obtained in Gambia before emigrating, a certificate of authenticity from his embassy and a police report stating that they saw no signs of forgery in it. .

Given the refusal of the boy and his lawyer to submit to the age determination tests, highly questioned due to his reliability, the prosecutor decreed that he was an adult.

Immediately afterwards, Ibrahim had to leave the juvenile center and was left on the street.

The UN Committee asked the Spanish authorities to apply a precautionary measure to return him to the center.

Ibrahim was the first to come to light, although there are many more like him.

The case of Lamin, who has just turned 17, according to his passport, is paradigmatic: for the Spanish authorities he is an adult and they do not allow him to be in a center for minors, but when he has gone to the social services that care for the homeless They have not admitted him because his documentation states that he is a minor.

Furthermore, although neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the police give credibility to his document, they have not reported him to the judicial bodies for falsifying documents.

Lamin would be sleeping on the street if it weren't for the fact that he has been taken in by a family in Almería.

He would like to continue his studies.

“I don't understand why they don't believe me,” he says over a video call.

“It never crossed my mind to have a fake passport, why?” he questions.

Considered adults since they set foot on land

The story of this young man becomes complicated as soon as he sets foot on the island of El Hierro in October.

He arrived traumatized after a week of crossing the Atlantic during which one of the occupants of his canoe died after jumping into the sea, probably deranged by hallucinations.

Lamin claims that from the first moment he insisted that he was a minor, but that the interpreter who translated his statement to the police accused him of lying.

“We spent a week in the middle of the Atlantic, without sleeping, without eating well, what do you expect me to look like when I get off the canoe?

How must I look to you for you to believe that I am a minor?” the boy questions.

It is not the first story that points out how that same interpreter ends up conditioning the destiny of young people who arrive in the Canary Islands.

The Ombudsman already collected, in a 2021 report, some complaints like this: “In one of the humanitarian reception centers visited in Tenerife, a large group of alleged minors agreed when reporting that the aforementioned interpreter had told them that they should not declare themselves minors.”

In October, EL PAÍS collected the testimonies of a dozen boys from Senegal who denounced the same practice.

Contacted by EL PAÍS, the translator defends her work and assures, without any data to support her, that 99% of the children who say they are minors are not.

“They lie to your face.

Nobody knows the profile of the black man like I do.

They say what the organizers recommend and, when I explain to them what happens if they say they are minors and they are not, they retract it.”

After his conversation with the interpreter, Lamin was removed from the minors' group and moved to the adults' group.

He ended up in a reception center in Barcelona.

When they forced him to leave, he slept in a park.

“I spent a week on the street, begging for food.

Nobody helped me because they thought I was crazy,” he recalls, very affected.

Lamin decided to go to Almería and there, almost by chance, he met Francisco Morenilla, the lawyer who represents him and who has taken his case to court.

“The atrocities that both the police and the Prosecutor's Office have done to him pissed me off,” he explains.

Neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the police have officially responded to this problem.

Two passports that coexist

The Gambia has two types of passport, one biometric with fingerprint identification and which is issued with the interested party present, and another 2002 model, without biometric data and which can be obtained remotely.

Both are legal and valid for the country's authorities, although the Spanish police express in their report their confusion at the prolonged coexistence of the two types of document.

According to the police technical report to which EL PAÍS has had access, Lamin's passport is the one considered the most suspicious because it does not contain biometric data.

It was her parents, her legal representatives, who from Gambia managed the issuance and sending of the document based on her birth certificate.

In other cases, such as that of Ibrahim, passports obtained with the interested party present and with fingerprint identification are also distrusted.

The Prosecutor's Office, which is the one who decrees the minority of foreigners who arrive alone in a boat, questioned the credibility of Lamin's documents.

It was based on the general technical report on the passports and the agents' observations.

The lawyer, who has appealed Lamin's dismissal from the juvenile center in court, refutes the prosecutor's arguments: “We insist on our serious doubts about the agents' calligraphy skills.

Let us remember that the report [of this specific case] is not signed by the scientific unit of the Provincial Police Station of the National Police, but by the Immigration Brigade.”

The prosecutor also saw “a manifest discrepancy” between Lamin's physical appearance and the age he says he is.

EL PAÍS has spoken with the boy by video call for more than half an hour and, although he shows a lot of maturity when expressing himself, he could be as 17 years old as his documents say.

In her decree, the prosecutor considers it an indication of his majority that Lamin, on the advice of his lawyer, refused to undergo age determination tests, in this case an x-ray of the wrist.

However, the lawyers' refusal is recurring due to doubts about a procedure questioned by national and international organizations.

In these cases, the Ombudsman defends that when the migrant provides identification documentation (birth certificate or passport) that is not contested, “it does not seem reasonable to subject them to tests to determine their age” because it could contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court in this regard.

The Gambian embassy issued a certificate to confirm the data contained in the passport and ensure that it is “valid” and “authentic”, but to no avail.

The Gambian Embassy has not responded to the calls or email sent by EL PAÍS.

The prosecutor, who did not believe anything Lamin said, declared his age of majority and the boy had to leave the juvenile center where he had managed to be accepted.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2024-02-21

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