Conditions in reception facilities



The majority of available places for asylum seekers in Spain are in reception centres, during the first phase of reception, which lasts for a maximum of 6 months. As stressed, during the second phase they are placed in private housing, as the final aim is their autonomy within the Spanish society.

In general, there have not been reports of bad conditions of reception. In fact, there are no registered protests or strikes by applicants. Unless they are placed in private housing, asylum seekers are not able to cook by themselves during the first phase of reception, as meals are managed by the authority in charge of the centre.

Hosted applicants have access to several types of activities, which may vary from trainings or leisure programmes. In general, particular conditions or facilities within the reception centre depend on the authority managing the reception places. As the majority of centres are managed by specialised NGOs, generally the staff that works with asylum seekers during their reception is trained and specialised.

The accommodation of every asylum seeker is decided on case by case basis, in order to prevent tensions or conflicts (such as nationality or religious based potential situations), vulnerability or violence. Single women for example are usually placed in female-only apartments, while the same happens for single men. In this context, the unity of families is also respected, as family members are placed together.

The usual length of stay for asylum seekers inside the reception facilities is the maximum stay admitted, which is 6 months. This is due to the fact that the system is divided into 3 main phases that gradually prepare the person to live autonomously in the hosting society. Following the last Royal Decree adopted in September 2015, asylum seekers whose application has been rejected may remain within the reception facilities until they reach the maximum duration of their stay. In addition, it should be note that asylum applicants must complete the first reception phase within asylum facilities in order to access the support foreseen in the following phases; the completion of the first phase is mandatory.


Reception conditions in CETI

In the CETI in Ceuta and Melilla, situations of overcrowding lead asylum seekers and migrants to substandard reception conditions. At the end of December 2016, 1,109 persons were hosted in Ceuta’s CETI and 900 in Melilla’s CETI, far beyond their respective capacity. Severe overcrowding was also reported in October 2015, Melilla was hosting 1,156 persons,1 and 2014, when the average occupancy rates were 638 in Ceuta and 1,338 in Melilla,2 even though the respective capacities of the CETI are 512 and 480.

The two CETI are reception facilities that receive the most criticism from organisations and institutions that monitor migrants’ and refugees’ rights. In 2016, Amnesty International,3 UNICEF4 and the Spanish Ombudsman5 published reports in which they denounced deficiencies in the conditions concerning the two centres. Besides shortcomings due to their usual overcrowding, attention was paid to the fact that CETI do not provide satisfactory conditions for family units and overall for families with minors. In fact, there are no available places for family units, due to which families are separated and children stay with only one of their parents. In both centres, the shortage of interpreters and psychologists has also been criticised.6

  • 1. Amnesty International, Fear and Fences: Europe’s approach to keeping refugees at bay, EUR 03/2544/2015, November 2015, 23.
  • 2. See European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Response of the Spanish Government to the Report of the Committee on its visit to Spain from 14 to 18 July 2014, CPT/Inf(2015) 20, 27 February 2015, available at:, 25-26.
  • 3. Amnesty International, El asilo en España: Un sistema de acogida poco acogedor, May 2016, available in Spanish at:, 37.
  • 4. UNICEF, Acogida en España de los niños refugiados, 2016, available in Spanish at:
  • 5. Spanish Ombudsman, El asilo en España: La protección internacional y los recursos del sistema de acogida, June 2016, available in Spanish at:, 64.
  • 6. Amnesty International, Fear and Fences: Europe’s approach to keeping refugees at bay, EUR 03/2544/2015, November 2015, 23.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti