A group of Syrian asylum seekers were left “confused and distressed” on the streets of Madrid after being deported from the UK, a welfare group has said.
Eleven people, who had previously crossed the English Channel to Britain, were removed from the UK on a charter flight on Thursday.
But when they touched down in Spain authorities did not accept responsibility for them, according to SOAS Detainee Support (SDS), who are supporting them.
Home secretary Priti Patel hailed the deportations on Twitter and said she will “not let up” until the Channel route is “unviable”, with the Home Office insisting that Thursday’s flight had been “carefully worked” between UK and Spanish authorities.
The Syrian nationals were sent back to Spain because they had already claimed asylum there, the department said.
But SDS said when the group landed in Madrid there was no one to receive them.
11 Syrian refugees were deported on a charter flight to Madrid this morning. Spanish authorities have said they do not accept any responsibility for them and they are now on the streets.#canceltheflights— SOAS Detainee Support (@sdetsup) September 3, 2020
Tom Kemp, a spokesman for the organisation, told the PA news agency that they were left “on the street near the airport” because there was no one to receive them when they landed.
He said: “They are very confused about what is happening to them and distressed about it.”
Kemp said the asylum seekers have now been picked up by local welfare groups.
He continued: “When the Home Office say they’re deporting people to functioning asylum systems in Europe, they’re really saying they’ll abandon people on the streets of Madrid.
“UK and EU governments are playing games with the lives of refugees. And mutual aid groups are struggling to pick up the pieces.”
The home secretary came under fire on Twitter after announcing the deportations, writing: “Today we removed people who came here via small boat.
“They had previously claimed asylum elsewhere and had no legal right to be in the UK.
“Removals continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers, but I will not let up until this route is unviable.”
Today we removed people who came here via small boat.— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) September 3, 2020
They had previously claimed asylum elsewhere and had no legal right to be in the UK.
Removals continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers, but I will not let up until this route is unviable https://t.co/oc1sOTTOae
Her use of the phrase “activist lawyer” came under particular criticism, and was accused of using accused of using “divisive and deceptive” language to describe legal professionals.
Her comments come a week after the Home Office was forced to abandon using a video which accused “activist lawyers” representing migrants of trying to disrupt the asylum system after a barrage of complaints.
A Home Office spokesperson said the time and place of the arrival of the flight had been “carefully worked through between the UK and Spain by mutual agreement”.
They added: “Formal requests were made of Spain in advance and they accepted responsibility for the claimants in accordance with the Regulations.
“Any suggestion that the Home Office has not complied with our obligations is incorrect.”
The Home Office says the UK is under no obligation to monitor the treatment of asylum seekers after they are deported to an EU country, but that such returns are only undertaken when the Home Office and the courts deem it safe to do so.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.