Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure


Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 22/05/23


In practice there are no specific nationalities automatically considered to be presenting well-founded or unfounded applications.

In 2018, the Audiencia Nacional provided additional guidance on the legal status of Venezuelans in Spain. According to the judgments, the socio-politic and economic crisis in Venezuela entitles Venezuelan asylum seekers to a residence permit in Spain under humanitarian reasons.[1]

On 5 March 2019, the CIAR announced a policy granting one-year renewable residence permits “on humanitarian grounds of international protection” to Venezuelan nationals whose asylum applications have been rejected between January 2014 and February 2019.[2] As a result, a total of 35,130 humanitarian status were granted within a single year to Venezuelans, thus exceeding by far the number of refugee status.

In 2022, out of a total of 20,924 first instance decisions, 20,580 Venezuelans obtained a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, while no information is available on how many Venezuelans obtained any form of international protection at the time of writing, as Venezuela is not within the top 5 nationalities disaggregated in the available figures.[3]

Lawyers have expressed deep concerns regarding the individual assessment of asylum claims lodged by Venezuelans, as some of them were granted a residence permit on humanitarian grounds despite being entitled to the refugee status (e.g. in the case of political opponents). In addition, it appears that some applications for international protection have been rejected because asylum seekers have a police record (not a criminal record).[4]

In a decision taken in March 2021, the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) established that the general situation of crisis in Venezuela does not amount to an individual persecution or to a serious harm justifying the recognition of international protection. Instead, the Court established that the severe economic conditions of the country – affected by food shortages and high unemployment rates – justify granting a residence permit for humanitarian reasons.[5]

It has to be noted that the number of rejections for Venezuelans increased significantly in 2021, up to a rate of 18% compared to 2020, when they represented only 2% of total decisions.

Another non-official practice of differential treatment concerned, until 2020, applications presented by Syrian nationals, who were in their vast majority granted subsidiary protection, and no case-by-case assessment was realised on the requirement to receive international protection. It should be noted, however, how this trend seemingly inverted in 2021, when 460 refugee statuses were recognised to Syrian nationals, compared to 265 cases in which subsidiary protection was recognised.[6] The same trend continued in 2022, which might be partly due to the fact that very few Syrian applicants’ cases were examined.

Another criterion concerns persons who were fleeing from gangs (Maras) in Central American countries, who were not granted international protection in previous years. In 2017 the Audiencia Nacional recognised subsidiary protection in different cases regarding asylum applicants from Honduras and El Salvador.[7] At the beginning of 2018, the Audiencia Nacional issued another important decision on the matter and revised its jurisprudence in relation to asylum applicants from Honduras.[8] In light of the 2016 UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Honduras, the Court concluded that the situation in Honduras can be considered as an internal conflict and that the Honduran State is not able to protect the population from violence, extortion and threats carried out by the Mara Salvatrucha gang.

In different decisions adopted in July 2022, the Audiencia Nacional denied protection to asylum applicants from Honduras and El Salvador who fled their countries due to threats from the maras. The Court agreed with the criterion used by the Minister of Interior, considering that such threat is a matter of common criminality which does not amount to persecution, and recognising the efforts that the two countries are carrying out to fight against such violence.[9]

Only some applicants from Honduras and El Salvador with specific profiles (i.e. former police officers, former staff of law enforcement agencies, human rights defenders, LGTBI+ individuals, gender-based violence victims) were granted protection.[10]

In the last years, asylum seekers from Colombia frequently received a differential treatment due to nationality, as they were systematically denied asylum as the situation in the country is considered to be critical only because of the widespread criminality, instead of acknowledging the presence of organised armed groups. In addition, similar cases of persecution (i.e. for political grounds) have received different outcomes (i.e. granting of international protection or denial).[11]

After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, Spain started to evacuate Afghans who had worked with Spanish troops and aid workers. The plan (Operación Antígona), managed by the Ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence, entailed their transfer from Kabul to Spain with different flights,[12] as well as their reception and granting of either refugee status or subsidiary protection.[13]

The Spanish military base in Torrejón (Autonomus Community of Madrid) worked as a hub for the Afghan refugees who were later to the US or other EU countries.[14] Different Spanish Autonomous Communities offered places for the reception of Afghans, with a special concern for women and children. After the temporarily reception of maximum 72-hours at the Torrejón military base,[15] Afghan refugees were referred to centres or apartments in the framework of the international protection reception system.[16] At the Torrejón facility, the Spanish Red Cross provided the first temporary assistance to refugees. The organisation reported that Afghans often lacked information on their whereabouts and about what would happen to them in the future.[17]

By the end of August 2021, the Spanish Government transferred more than 2,200 Afghans to Spain. Around 1,700 applied for international protection, and many were referred to the reception asylum system.[18] One-third of them is under 15 years of age.[19]

The NGO CEAR launched a campaign to ask the Spanish Government to foster a humanitarian corridor for Afghan refugees at EU level.[20] In October 2021, the Spanish Government evacuated 80 Afghan refugees from Pakistan.[21] The Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration together with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Federación Española de Municipios y Provincias) put in place a pilot project to involve municipalities in the integration of Afghan population arrived to Spain in the framework of the Antígona Operation. According to the collaboration agreement, the MISSM will continue to provide for the expenses connected to their reception, maintenance, social support, legal assistance, language classes, and support for their integration through the international protection programme. The Municipalities that wish to join the initiative will put municipal house facilities at disposal of the MISSM.[22]

The MISSM concluded the referral of Afghans to different reception facilities across the countries by mid-November, so the military base of Torrejón has been dismantled.[23] Afghans applicants in Spain have been required to make an asylum application through the usual channels.[24] The Asylum Office (OAR) has prioritised the first interview with Afghans applicants for the formalisation of the international protection application. It has to been underlined that interviews were carried out in a complete and detailed manner, also taking into account different characteristics (i.e. belonging to a minority group) and vulnerabilities of applicants. Additionally, the assessment phase is quicker than usual.[25]

In January 2022 the National High Court adopted a decision granting subsidiary protection to the appellant,[26] as it considered that, as far as the conflict in Afghanistan continues and it is not possible to find an internal flight alternative due to the total control of the country by the Taliban regime, the existing violence creates a real risk of suffering serious and individual threats against the life or security of civil population, and that sometimes this real risk may simply exist due to the presence of the applicant in the territory. Such a decision represents a change of criteria in relation to the international protection mechanisms for Afghan nationals in Spain, and has been adopted taken into consideration the UNHCR recommendations after the evacuation of August 2021.

In August 2022, Spain evacuated almost 300 Afghans who had collaborated with the Ministries of Defence and of Foreign Affairs.[27] In the following year, the Government evacuated 3,900 former Afghan collaborators, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced more evacuation operations to come.[28] According to available  information, one third of the Afghans who reached Spain were out of the asylum reception system after one year, and around 700 Afghans evacuated to Spain moved to other EU countries (mainly Germany) to reach their family or friends.[29] The main difficulty that Afghan refugees are facing in Spain is the access to housing, due to the high prices and the impact of COVID-19.[30]

In the same month, the professional associations of the Judges for Democracy and the Progressive Union of Public Prosecutors sent an open letter to the Spanish President, expressing their concern on the situation that female judges, public prosecutors and lawyers are facing in Afghanistan since August 2021, and asking for more efforts by the Spanish Government to assure their protection. Concretely, the associations asked the President to include 32 female judges and public prosecutors – together with their families – in one of the flights that Spain had scheduled to transfer Afghans evacuees.[31]

Due to the serious humanitarian situation that Afghanistan is experiencing since the Taliban take over, the NGO CEAR asked Spain and the EU to urgently provide for legal and safe pathways to Afghans, together with reinforcing the EU and national compromise to resettlement. It also called to speed up the family reunification procedure, to establish university scholarships and other programs for students, to suspend the application of the EU-Afghanistan Declaration on return and readmission, and to harmonise the protection granted to Afghans across the EU.[32]

At the end of 2022, a group of 27 Afghan female public prosecutors’ arrived to Spain from Pakistan together with their families, in an action coordinated by the Spanish Minister of External Affairs and thanks to the initiative of a group of Spanish judges and public prosecutors.[33]

In December 2022, the political party Unidas Podemos presented a parliamentary request  aimed at gathering more information and devising solutions in relation to the problems that Afghan nationals are facing at the Spanish embassies in Pakistan and Iran for applying for asylum.[34]

Following a parliamentary request, in March 2023 the Government informed that 1,500 Afghans arrived to Spain since August 2021 after applying for asylum at Spanish embassies in Iran and Pakistan.[35]

For what concerned the response to the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, please see annex on Temporary Protection.




[1] Audiencia Nacional, Decisions SAN 2522/2018, 26 June 2018; SAN 4063/2018, 8 October 2018; SAN 4060/2018, 18 October 2018.

[2] OAR, Nota sobre la propuesta de concesión de una autorización temporal de residencia por … de una autorización de residencia temporal por razones humanitarias, 5 March 2019, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2UCYGV0.

[3]  Ministerio del Interior, ‘AVANCE de solicitudes y propuestas de resolución de protección internacional Datos provisionales acumulados entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de diciembre de 2022’, January 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3QPIxcN.

[4] Information provided by the legal services of Accem on February 2021.

[5] Tribunal Supremo, Decision 352/2021 (STS 1052/2021), 11 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3qFWqNK.

[6] Eurostat, First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded)[migr_asydcfsta], available at: https://bit.ly/38yLNl9.

[7]  Audiencia Nacional, Decision SAN 5110/2017, 22 November 2017; SAN 5189/2017, 22 November 2017; SAN 3930/2017, 14 September 2017.

[8] Audiencia Nacional, Decision SAN 508/2018, 9 February 2018.

[9] Heraldo, ‘La amenaza de las “maras” no es suficiente para lograr asilo en España’, 9 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3QCkUmW; Audiencia Nacional. Sala de lo Contencioso, SAN 3412/2022, 13 July 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3nlvyoi.

[10] Information provided by Accem’s legal service in April 2023.

[11] Information provided by the legal service of Accem on February 2022.

[12] Newtral, ‘Un segundo avión procedente de Kabul trae a 110 afganos a España’, 20 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3qHQUdN; El Diario, ‘Un tercer avión español con refugiados afganos llega este sábado a Madrid desde Kabul’, 21 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3pOzc97; Cadena Ser, ‘Aterriza en Torrejón un nuevo vuelo con 292 afganos evacuados por España’, 25 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3FPxCtf; Cadena Ser, ‘Aterriza el avión con los últimos evacuados de Afganistán en la base de Torrejón de Ardoz’, 27 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/32Y7xtu.

[13] El País, ‘España prepara la evacuación de afganos que trabajaron para sus militares y cooperantes’, 11 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3HpKZR2.

[14] Newtral, ‘Así será la acogida de refugiados afganos que ha ofrecido España’, 18 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3HulFcW; Cadenaser, ‘España acogerá en Rota y Morón a un máximo de 4.000 colaboradores afganos de EEUU durante dos semanas’, 23 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3zmYJJv.

[15] ECRE, ‘Afghans seeking protection in Europe. ECRE’s compilation of information on evacuations, pathways to protection and access to asylum in Europe for Afghans since August 2021’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3pOTjUP.

[16] El Diario, ‘El Gobierno acelera la acogida de refugiados afganos: “La prioridad es sacarles de Torrejón lo antes posible”’, 23 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3zy3vUZ.

[17] El Diario, ‘La Cruz Roja, desde el campamento de Torrejón: “No saben dónde están, qué va a pasar con ellos”’, August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3sOP25y.

[18] Público, ‘Más de 1.700 personas evacuadas de Afganistán solicitan protección internacional en España’, 27 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3JFoV7g; Público, ‘La mitad de los refugiados afganos llegados a España piden protección internacional en nuestro país’, 23 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3HtgCJF; The Objective, ‘Más de 1.700 de los afganos que llegaron a España están en el sistema de acogida aprendiendo el idioma’, 4 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3HuL3Pz.

[19] El Diario, ‘Un tercio de los refugiados afganos evacuados y acogidos en España son menores de 15 años’, 2 September 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3FPjRuH.

[20] CEAR, ‘CEAR, Un corredor humanitario para las personas refugiadas de Afganistán’, August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3FPr5P3.

[21]  La Vanguardia, ‘Llegan a España otros 80 afganos desde Pakistán’, 11 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3zlOfKx; Cadena Ser, ‘Exteriores y Defensa llevan a cabo una operación para la evacuación de colaboradores afganos’, 9 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3JBPpGp.

[22] Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones, ‘El Ministerio de Inclusión contará con los ayuntamientos en la acogida de familias refugiadas afganas’, 11 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3HuH31v.

[23] El Confidencial Autonómico, ‘La base aérea de Torrejón, despejada después de atender a los últimos 240 afganos’, 16 November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/31l5X4h.

[24] ECRE, ‘Afghans seeking protection in Europe. ECRE’s compilation of information on evacuations, pathways to protection and access to asylum in Europe for Afghans since August 2021’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3pOTjUP.

[25] Information provided by the legal service of Accem on February 2022.

[26] Audiencia Nacional. Sala de lo Contencioso, SAN 250/2022, 13 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/405w2gR.

[27] El País, ‘España evacúa a casi 300 excolaboradores afganos un año después de la caída de Kabul’, 8 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3BRoRQ9.

[28] La Moncloa, ‘El Gobierno ha evacuado a 3.900 colaboradores afganos desde hace un año con los 300 llegados hoy a Torrejón’, 10 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3QFgJqk; La Razón, ‘Albares anuncia nuevas operaciones para evacuar a ciudadanos afganos’, 11 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3ApDfhq   

[29] Newtral, ‘Refugiados afganos un año después de su llegada: sus expectativas se frustran ante la realidad del sistema de acogida’, 13 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3C90bTi.

[30] Nius Diario, ‘Refugiados afganos en España: dos tercios siguen en el sistema de acogida y su mayor problema es la vivienda’, 15 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3PAcknC.

[31] Lawyer Press News, ‘Carta abierta al Presidente del Gobierno de España en relación a la situación de peligro que sufren las mujeres juezas y fiscalas afganas y la necesidad de que España les ofrezca protección internacional’, 7 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3p7wiLm.

[32] CEAR, ‘Un año después del regreso al poder de los talibanes, urge poner a salvo a la población amenazada atrapada en el país’, 12 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3SREddA.

[33] Epe, ‘Las fiscales afganas objetivo de los talibanes y auxiliadas por Exteriores llegan a España’, 27 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3vU0IV4.

[34] Mundo Obrero, ‘UP alerta sobre los problemas de las personas huidas de Afganistán que solicitan asilo en las embajadas de Pakistán e Irán’, 30 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3kFEK5Q.

[35] Europa Press, ‘El Gobierno ha facilitado la llegada a España de 1.444 afganos que huían de los talibán desde Irán y Pakistán’, 6 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3SUqXoU.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation