The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation expects to be able to reactivate from June the transfer from Peru of a group of Spanish prisoners whose files have already been finalized, but who have been paralyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Diplomatic sources have explained to Europa Press that the pandemic has prevented the transfer because Peruvian airspace remains closed and it is impossible at the moment to carry out the operation. The situation of prisoners is compounded by confinement, which prevents consular officials from visiting them in jails.
According to other sources familiar with this case, some 40 prisoners are awaiting the transfer to Spain from Peruvian jails. On April 18, the Ministry of Justice of this country gave the green light to the transfer to Spain of 12 inmates, thus joining the thirty who were already waiting.
In any case, diplomatic sources point out that the Spanish Consul General in Lima continues to contact the Peruvian authorities and is promoting the files and that the Consulate is also in contact with all the prisoners.
The Government detailed in a recent parliamentary response that 43 Spanish prisoners abroad have already authorized their transfer files to Spain and are only waiting for that transfer to materialize, but did not specify which country they were in.
Typically, prisoners travel to Spain individually or in small groups, but in 2017 and 2018 the Government organized three repatriation flights with which it transferred a total of 93. Thus, from the more than 300 in 2016 At the end of February 2020, 57 Spaniards remained in Peruvian jails.
This despite the fact that transfers were halted in 2019. According to the Annual Report of the Ombudsman, complaints that delays in processing grew that year. This was due to the fact that the judges tightened the requirements to exonerate the fines, which are often part of the sentence and that most of the prisoners or their relatives cannot assume.
Thus, in some cases, they have chosen to request the redemption of the sentence. Overcoming this obstacle, there are now a considerable number of Spanish inmates in Peru awaiting repatriation.
Almost all of the Spanish prisoners in Peru are for drug trafficking. According to the website of the Spanish Consulate in Lima, the possession, consumption or trafficking of narcotics, including marijuana, is strictly prohibited in the country. The penalties imposed for trafficking range from 8 to 15 years in prison if the crime is carried out individually, and between 15 and 25 years if the trafficker is considered a member of a gang. The sentence reaches life in prison if the defendant is the leader of a gang that uses drug trafficking to finance terrorist offenses.
In its response to Deputy Jon Iñarritu, the Government stated that, as of January 31, 2020, there were a total of 946 Spanish citizens detained abroad, 831 men and 115 women. Of these, 572 were arrested for drug trafficking.
Of the 946 detainees, 522 are serving sentences, an essential requirement to request the transfer to Spain. On the same date 117 people had requested their transfer to Spain.
REPORT OF THE OMBUDSMAN
Consular assistance to Spanish prisoners abroad is one of the matters overseen by the Ombudsman. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the institution has received reports about the situation of specific prisoners in Brazil, Ecuador, Italy, India, Morocco and Bulgaria, at a time when, in addition, movement restrictions have complicated visits consular
Furthermore, the Defender’s latest annual report, presented this week, warns that “the intensity of diplomatic and consular work” with Spanish prisoners and their families is “disparate”, and that it depends “in many cases on the degree of involvement that the officials assume within the framework of their competences “.
“Sometimes the relatives of the prisoners state that they maintain fluid communication with the Spanish foreign services, while in other cases, complaints have been received regarding the lack of response to their requests for information or assistance,” the report says.
He mentions, for example, that he received a letter from relatives of Spanish prisoners in Morocco – the North African country with the most prisoners, mostly for drug trafficking – complaining that consular visits had been reduced, becoming quarterly instead of of monthly.
The Foreign Ministry clarified to the Ombudsman that this only happened in the demarcation of the Spanish Consulate General in Rabat, which is the second consular demarcation with the largest number of Spanish prisoners in the country. According to the Defender’s figures, in 2019 there were two Spanish prisoners in the Agadir consular district, four in Nador, five in Casablanca, 28 in Rabat and 44 in Tetouan.