The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that Spain acted lawfully when it rapidly deported two men who entered its north African enclave of Melilla by scaling a border fence from Morocco. The men, who are from Mali and Ivory Coast, were among hundreds who climbed the fence on 13 August 2014. They were caught by Spanish police and immediately handed over to Moroccan authorities. The judgement said the men had placed themselves in an “unlawful situation” by not seeking refuge through the correct channels. It follows an appeal by Spain, to which Italy, Belgium and France joined, and reverses an initial ruling that Spain’s rapid return of the men had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. UNHCR, which intervened in the case as a third-party, stressed that pushbacks of people who may be in need of international protection contravene international refugee and human rights law. Rights groups described the ruling as a “blow for refugee and migrant rights” that could set a precedent for push backs elsewhere in the EU.