The Asylum Regulation provides that the authorities responsible for the lodging of asylum claims on the territory are: the Office of Asylum and Refuge (OAR), any Aliens Office under the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders (Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras) of the Police, Detention Centre for Foreigners (CIE), Spanish Embassies and Consulates, or police station. In practice, “registration” and “lodging” of asylum applications entail different procedural steps.
Rules on making (presentación), registering and lodging (formalización)
Persons willing to seek international protection in Spain must make a formal application during their first month of stay in Spain. When this time limit is not respected, the law foresees the possibility to apply the urgent procedure, although, in practice, the competent authority will reject any asylum application that does not comply with the 1-month deadline when it considers that no valid justification exists for the delay.
The process begins with the presentation (“making”) of the application, which the applicant shall present in person or, if this is not possible, with representation by another person. For persons disembarking in ports, the intention to apply for international protection is registered by the police, usually following the intervention of NGOs.
Upon the registration of the intention to apply for asylum, the applicant receives a paper-form “certificate of intention to apply for asylum” (Manifestación de voluntad de presentar solicitud de protección internacional).
After registration has been completed, the applicant is given an appointment for the formalisation (“lodging”) of the application, which consists of an interview and the completion of a form, and shall be always be realised in the presence of a police official or an officer of the OAR. Upon the lodging of the application, the person receives a “receipt of application for international protection” (Resguardo de solicitud de protección internacional), also known as “white card” (tarjeta blanca). This document is later replaced by a “red card” (tarjeta roja), issued after the asylum application has been deemed admissible by the OAR.
In January 2022, nine persons were detained for forging “red cards” and selling them for 300-400 Euros.
According to the Asylum Act, all registered asylum applications are communicated to UNHCR, which will be able to gather information on the application, to participate in the applicant’s hearings and to submit reports to be included in the applicant’s record. UNHCR shall receive notification of an asylum application within a maximum period of 24 hours, which is applied in practice.
Obstacles to registration in practice
Due to the increase in asylum applications in Spain in recent years, which slowed down the functioning of the Spanish asylum system, applicants have to wait long periods of time before getting an appointment to be interviewed by the OAR. Since 2017 and up until the end of 2020, there have regularly been long queues of asylum seekers waiting to register their application for international protection at the Aluche police station in Madrid. This was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, rendering it difficult to respect the distancing rules, as pointed out by the trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) in the 38 reports it issued in this regard. In 2021, a telematic system to request an interview was put in place; some problems affecting such system were reported, due in particular to the limited places available for interviews, and to technical problems encountered when operating such system. As mentioned below, the same problems persisted in 2022.
In 2021, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) reported on the long waiting times to obtain first appointments to apply for asylum in Spain, indicating that, for example, in Girona or Lugo waiting times can take even more than one year. In addition, it highlighted that applicants faced difficulties in renewing their documentation due to COVID-19 restrictions, and were generally unaware of their rights.
To shed light on the situation, the Spanish Ombudsman opened an investigation looking into the measures taken by the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders (Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras) of the Police to avoid long queues. The investigation further assesses the conditions to which asylum seekers in Madrid are confronted to when lodging their application. In August 2020, the Ombudsman recommended that the Ministry of the Interior urgently adopts measures to facilitate access to the appointment system after receiving numerous complaints about the difficulties faced by persons in need of international protection to lodge their application for asylum. The Government partially accepted the recommendation. In February 2023, the Minister of Interior informed that the body started to examine new internal coordination mechanisms aiming at reducing the waiting time between the lodging and the registration of the asylum application.
In December 2020, following a claim lodged by the Jesuit Migrant Service, the Spanish Ombudsman urged again the Police to stop subjecting asylum seekers to requirements not foreseen in law, such as providing certain documents (i.e. certificate of registration of residence) to access the asylum procedure.
The average waiting time for an appointment vary depending on the province. In certain provinces, waiting times could range from 8 months to more than 1 year in practice. Detailed statistics on the average waiting time per province is not available, but practice suggests that they can vary from one month to another or even one week to another, depending on the workload for asylum interviewers have. In 2021, waiting times generally decreased also thanks to the telematic system put in place to ask for the appointment. Even so, in some cases there were no free places for the appointment for the asylum interview, which made waiting times longer for those specific cases.
In any case, in order to reduce timeframes, the administration is increasing the personnel in charge of registering asylum applications at police stations.
In May 2022, the UNHCR Representative for Spain expressed concerns for the long waiting time for obtaining an asylum interview appointment, especially in certain provinces, and affirmed that the resources allocated to ensuring access asylum in Spain are not adequate.
Due to a computer mistake, all asylum applications lodged from the end of January to the end of March 2022 in the province of Valencia went lost.
In 2022, it was reported that asylum appointments were sold on the black market, with offers published also in Wallapop. In June, some asylum seekers gathered in front of the Government Delegation in Valencia and presented a statement with 200 signatures, asking for more police stations to formalize asylum applications. They also denounced that, due to the blockage at the offices, the price of appointments in the black market increased up to four times. The UNHCR Representative for Spain affirmed that the practice of selling asylum appointments is dangerous and weakens the system, and asked the Government to allocate more resources to solve the problems experienced by individuals wanting to access asylum. In November, the Provincial Public Prosecutor Office started an investigation on the issue, following a denounce lodged by SOS Racismo and Extranjeristas en Red. In December, a group of asylum seekers gathered in front of the Minsiter of Interior to protest against the violation of their rights due to the lack of asylum appointments. They also lodged a claim in front of the Spanish Ombudsman. In the same month, the organisation Murcia Acoge reported the same situation for the Autonomous Community of Murcia, and sent a complaint to the Government-Delegation in the region.
In order to improve the access to the asylum procedure through the prior appointment, and to assess the possibility that the waiting time does not exceed 1 month, the Commission of Internal Affairs at the Congress approved a legislative proposal.
In January 2023, obstacles and long waiting times to apply for asylum in Burgos was also reported.
In February, around 50 persons gathered in front of the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration to ask for accommodation while waiting to obtain an appointment for registering their asylum application. In addition, some NGOs lodged different claims in front of the Ombudsman, asking to intervene with the competent institutions regarding the situation. The UNHCR’s Representative defined access to asylum in Spain as critical.
According to practices observed by Accem, asylum seekers have to request an appointment to express their intention to apply for asylum; only after the appointment, they can register their asylum application. Obtaining an appointment resulted however extremely complicated in practice, especially for what concerned long waiting times:
|WAITING TIME TO OBTAIN THE APPOINTMENT FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF THE INTENTION TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM|
|PROVINCE||MECHANISM TO ACCESS THE APPOINTMENT||WAITING TIME|
|MADRID||Internet||It depends on each police station|
|LA CORUÑA||1-2 months|
|CÓRDOBA||By phone||Few days|
|GIJÓN||By phone||Few days|
|VIGO||By phone||Few days|
|CIUDAD REAL||In presence||The same day|
Source: Accem, February 2023.
|WAITING TIME FOR REGISTRATION (SINCE THE OBTAINEMENT OF THE MANIFESTATION OF INTENTION TO APPLY FOR ASYLUM)|
|More than 1 year||ALBACETE, TOLEDO, SALAMANCA, ALICANTE, LA CORUÑA|
|1 year||GUADALAJARA, LEÓN Y VALLADOLID.|
|5-6 months||OVIEDO Y CIUDAD REAL|
|2 months||CÁDIZ Y MURCIA|
|1 month and a half||BARCELONA|
|It depends from each police station, but it can vary from 1 to 9 months||MADRID|
Source: Accem, February 2023.
Access to the procedure in Ceuta and Melilla
Beyond the mainland, most shortcomings concerning the registration of asylum claims in Spain relate to the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, due to the difficulties in the Access to the Territory. Since November 2014, the Ministry of Interior established asylum offices at the borders’ crossing points in Ceuta and Melilla, and UNHCR guaranteed its presence in such areas starting from mid-2014.
Since its establishment, the border checkpoint in Melilla became one of the main registration points for asylum applications in Spain.  Conversely, there has been virtually no asylum claim made at the Ceuta border point. This is mainly due to the impossibility faced by migrants and asylum seekers to exit the Moroccan border due to the severe checks performed by Moroccan police, as mentioned in Access to the territory and push backs. This issue also affects Melilla but mainly impacts on the nationalities that can access the Spanish border rather than on the number of asylum claims overall. In fact, most of persons on the Moroccan side are stopped following racial profiling, meaning that nationalities such as Syrians cross the border more easily than persons from Sub-Saharan countries (see section on Access to the Territory).
Access to the procedure from detention
Shortcomings have also been reported concerning the possibility to claim asylum from administrative detention due to the difficulties faced by detained persons in accessing legal assistance. In this regard, the Spanish Ombudsman recommended the General Commissariat for Foreigners and Borders to adopt instructions to establish an appropriate system for registration of asylum applications in CIE in accordance with the law.
In particular, the Ombudsman highlighted the difficulties faced by detainees in applying for asylum at CIEs. In particular, in Madrid, individuals are instructed to put their written intention to apply for asylum in a mailbox and to wait until the mailbox has been opened for the asylum procedure to start, and the fact that many persons have been expelled without having had access to the asylum procedure. In July 2018, the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders of the Police issued instructions to all CIE to adapt their systems for registration of asylum applications to the existing law following a recommendation made by the Spanish Ombudsman. This included establishing a register and provide applications with a receipt of their application for international protection. The Ombudsman thus reiterated its recommendation to the General Commissariat for Aliens and Borders of the National Police. It seems that the access to the procedure has slightly improved since then, and that detainees are provided information on the right to asylum by the Spanish Red Cross.
Access to the procedure on the Canary Islands
As already explained in the Arrivals by sea section, the Canary Islands were under significant pressure also in 2022 following the increase of arrivals and the lack of available resources. This hindered the access to registration and to the asylum procedure. Some individuals further seem to decide not to apply for asylum because they believe that receiving a pre-expulsion order will facilitate their onward travel to the mainland, as the order contains an identification number that allows access to the irregular migrant reception system and can be used as an identifying document in travel.
An important issue reported in 2020 was the lack of registration of the nationality of people who arrived on the Canary Islands. For more detailed information, see AIDA 2020 Update. No similar issues were reported in 2021, and it did not appear to be a concern in 2022.
In a report on the human rights violations in the Canary Islands published by the NGO Irídia on May 2022, the organisation denounced the practice of detaining migrants who go to police stations to request information on asylum.
 Article 4(1) Asylum Regulation.
 Article 17(2) Asylum Act.
 Articles 34-35 Asylum Act.
 Article 6(4) Asylum Regulation.
 Information provided by the legal service of Accem in March 2022.
 Defensor del Pueblo, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo investiga las dificultades para acceder a la cita previa para solicitar protección internacional en Madrid’, 15 November 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2StZDxk.
 Cope Melilla, ‘Grande-Marlaska anuncia que Interior estudia «nuevos mecanismos internos de coordinación» para reducir el tiempo que media entre la solicitud y la formalización de la petición de asilo’, 15 February 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3ZcShAC.
 El Diario, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo insta a la Policía a dejar de exigir requisitos no previstos en la ley a los solicitantes de asilo’, 22 December 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/37uCeWp; Público, ‘Una comisaría de Policía valenciana impide a demandantes de asilo acceder al procedimiento’, 27 December 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2M5NtgH.
 Information provided by Accem’s legal services in March 2022.
 Diario Siglo XXI, ‘CEAR denuncia “el mercado negro de citas” para el proceso de asilo, con “ofertas hasta en Wallapop”’, 16 June 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3SF3szL; EL Salto Diario, ‘Personas migrantes y solicitantes de asilo sin cita para acceder a derechos’, 23 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3VASpIf.
 Levante, ‘El mercado negro de citas sube los precios por el atasco en Extranjería: “Ahora pagas hasta cuatro veces más”’, 27 June 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3w079Gs; Levante, ‘Los solicitantes de asilo protestan por la falta de citas: “Estamos en un limbo migratorio”’, 26 June 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3pdetKX.
 Valencia Plaza, ‘La Fiscalía investiga el mercadeo de las citas para pedir asilo en València’, 17 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3EOZhMN; El Diario, ‘La Fiscalía investiga el mercadeo de citas previas para pedir asilo en València’, 17 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3XmruBE; levante, ‘Denuncian ante fiscalía el colapso de las citas de asilo en València’, 2 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3FbELpN.
 Tercera Informacion, ‘«Sin citas no hay derechos»: Solicitantes de protección internacional sin derecho a serlo registran quejas dirigidas al defensor del Pueblo y se concentran frente al Ministerio del Interior’, 13 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3jj2XOk.
 Oficina de Asilo y Refugio – OAR, ‘Asilo en cifras 2019’, July 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3elpqGn; Oficina de Asilo y Refugio – OAR, ‘Asilo en cifras 2018’, September 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Onb39c; Senate, Reply of the Government to question 689/1339, 20 September 2017, available in Spanish at: http://bit.ly/2DHJ1yB.
 Defensor del Pueblo, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo reclama un sistema de registro de las solicitudes de asilo para los CIE que cumpla con la normativa vigente’, 22 May 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2snaz4j.
 Ombudsman, ‘Interior acepta la recomendación del Defensor para adecuar el sistema de registro de las solicitudes de asilo en los CIE a la normativa vigente’, July 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2AYji28.