Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure


Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure Last updated: 21/04/22


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. Only 50 Venezuelans were granted a refugee status in Spain in 2019 according to Eurostat statistics.[3] Similarly in 2020, 40,396 Venezuelans obtained a residence permit on humanitarian grounds,[4] and only 5 Venezuelans were granted refugee status according to Eurostat statistics.[5]

In 2021, out of a total of 15,700 first instance decisions, 12,860 Venezuelans obtained a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, while only 10 were recognised refugee status and none subsidiary protection.[6]

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).[7]

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.[8]

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 were only the 2%.

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 is realised on the requirement to receive international protection. According to Eurostat, 1,075 subsidiary protection status have been granted to Syrians in 2019, compared to 35 refugee statuses. Similarly, in 2020, only 5 Syrians were granted refugee status, compared to 530 subsidiary protection status.[9] In one case concerning a Syrian family resettled from Lebanon in 2017, however, the Audiencia Nacional overturned the subsidiary protection status and granted refugee status on the basis that the father was at risk of persecution in Syria and that the family had been recognised as refugees by UNHCR.[10] It should be noted, however, how this trend was seemingly inverted in 2021, when 460 refugee statuses were recognised to Syrian nationals, compared to 265 cases in which subsidiary protection was recognised.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.

The NGO CEAR has launched a campaign in February 2019 named “Maras. Ver, oír y callar” to raise awareness on the issues faced by asylum seekers originating from Honduras and El Salvador; and in particular on the fact that asylum claims based on the fear of persecution from gangs are systematically denied in Spain. This has included the promotion of a new TV series addressing the issue on social media, through a dedicated webpage as well as through posters.[14]

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).[15]

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,[16] as well as their reception and granting of either refugee status or subsidiary protection.[17]

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.[18] 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,[19] Afghan refugees were referred to centres or apartments in the framework of the international protection reception system.[20] 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.[21]

By the end of August, 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.[22] One-third of them is under 15 years of age.[23]

The NGO CEAR launched a campaign to ask the Spanish Government to foster a humanitarian corridor for Afghan refugees at EU level.[24] In October 2021, the Spanish Government evacuated 80 Afghan refugees from Pakistan.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] Afghans applicants in Spain have been required to make an asylum application through the usual channels.[28] 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.[29]

Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, and the EU decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, the Spanish Government started to design a more flexible and simple mechanism for providing protection to persons fleeing the country, without the necessity for them to lodge an asylum application.[30] Similarly, the Government started to elaborate a plan to provide for and speed up their reception,[31] and announced the creation of around 6,000 new reception places in collaboration with the Autonomus Communities and the Municipalities.[32] To address the reception needs of persons fleeing from Ukraine, at the beginning of March 2022 the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration provided for the creation of four Emergency and Referral Centres (CREADE), managed by NGOs. One of them is located in Madrid, offers 400 places and is managed by the NGO Accem.[33] Other two facilities located in Barcelona and Alicante are managed by the Spanish Red Cross, while the fourth is managed by the NGO CEAR in Málaga.[34]

In addition, the OAR temporarily halted the decisions on asylum applications already lodged by Ukrainian applicants, which are prospected to have a negative outcome.[35]  It is important to note that, from 2012 to 2021, Spain has received around 16,000 asylum applications from Ukrainian nationals, and denied at least 14,600 of them; only  9% of the applicants received any form of international protection according to such figures.[36] On 24 March, the National Court of Madrid granted subsidiary protection to a Ukrainian family, whose application had previously been rejected.[37]

On 9 March, the Government adopted two orders extending the temporary protection to to Ukrainian nationals, persons and stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine, Ukrainians staying (regularly or irregularly) in Spain before 24 February 2022, and their family members, and detailing the procedure to grant such status.[38] According to such orders, the decision granting temporary protection is adopted by the OAR in 24 hours from the lodging of the application. The temporary protection, as well as the residence and work permit granted, will be automatically renewed for 1 year after 1 year since the granting of the temporary protection. Up to the 21 of March, the Government granted more than 10,000 temporary protection status to persons fleeing Ukraine.[39]

The Spanish Bar Association committed to provide legal guidance to Ukrainian through the specialised roll on migration and asylum of the different bar associations.[40]  The NGO CEAR published guidelines on asylum for those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, which is available both in Ukrainian and Spanish.[41] Similarly, the Bar Association of Madrid published a guide in Spanish, English and Ukrainian providing information to persons fleeing Ukraine.[42] The Minister of Interior published a document (also in different languages including Ukrainian) to inform on the temporary protection, on who can apply for it and where, the rights deriving from the protection granted, etc.[43] The Psychological Association of Madrid published some information videos for the psychological support to persons affected by the conflict in Ukraine.[44]




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

[4] 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 2020’, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/37qJRNx.

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

[6] Eurostat; See also Ministerio del Interior, ‘Avance de datos de protección internacional, aplicación del Reglamento de Dublín y reconocimiento del estatuto de apátrida. Datos provisionales acumulados entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de diciembre de 2021’, available at: https://bit.ly/3insHpr.

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

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

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

[10] Audiencia Nacional, Decision SAN 5336/2017, 11 December 2017.

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

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

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

[14] CEAR, Maras. Ver, oír y callar, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/drqk1u0.

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

[16] 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.

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

[18] 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.

[19] 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.

[20] 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.

[21] 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.

[22] 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.

[23] 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.

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

[25] 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.

[26] 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.

[27] 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.

[28] 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.

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

[30] El Diario, ‘El Gobierno alojará de forma exprés a los refugiados de Ucrania que lo necesiten sin exigir que antes pidan protección’, 5 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3tAkL9a.

[31] El Diario, ‘Interior ultima un mecanismo “rápido y sencillo” para dar papeles a los refugiados por la invasión rusa’, 5 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3pOBIfb.

[32] Diario de Sevilla, ‘España espera disponer de más de 6.000 plazas de acogida para refugiados ucranianos’, 7 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/35INf8X.

[33] El Diario, ‘Así es el primer centro de España creado para recibir a los refugiados de Ucrania’, 10 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3NuvcnS.

[34] Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones, ‘Inclusión coordinará un programa de acogimiento familiar y contará con cuatro centros de recepción para ucranianos’, 15 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3wMPe7h.

[35] Europa Press, ‘Interior no denegará protección internacional para ucranianos a la espera de activarse el sistema de acogida europeo’, 28 February 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/34udPSI.

[36] Newtral, ‘España ha denegado la protección internacional a más de 14.600 ucranianos en los últimos 10 años’, 11 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3qK8yyb.

[37] Audiencia Nacional. Sala de lo Contencioso, Madrid, SAN 478/2022, 24 february 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3LkdO3n.

[38] Ministerio de la Presidencia, Relaciones con las Cortes y Memoria Democrática, ‘Orden PCM/170/2022, de 9 de marzo, por la que se publica el Acuerdo del Consejo de Ministros de 8 de marzo de 2022, por el que se amplía la protección temporal otorgada en virtud de la Decisión de Ejecución (UE) 2022/382 del Consejo de 4 de marzo de 2022 a personas afectadas por el conflicto de Ucrania que puedan encontrar refugio en España’, 9 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3tJHzET; Ministerio de la Presidencia, Relaciones con las Cortes y Memoria Democrática, ‘Orden PCM/169/2022, de 9 de marzo, por la que se desarrolla el procedimiento para el reconocimiento de la protección temporal a personas afectadas por el conflicto en Ucrania’, 9 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3uxftf9.

[39] Europa Press, ‘Más de 10.000 refugiados ucranianos ya cuentan con protección temporal en España, según Interior‘, 21 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3rmvJiy.

[40] El Derecho, ‘La Abogacía Española ofrecerá apoyo legal en España a los refugiados ucranianos’, 1 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3hXJqPz.

[41] CEAR, ‘Guía asilo personas afectadas por guerra ucrania’, 1 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3HVgoe0.

[42] Ilustre Colegio de Abogados de Madrid (ICAM), ‘El Colegio de Abogados de Madrid publica una guía para ciudadanos que huyen del conflicto armado de Ucrania’, 15 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3wInlNC.

[43] Ministerio del Interior, ‘UCRANIA – Protección Temporal’, 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3NqQgM2.

[44] Colegio Oficial de la Psicología de Madrid, ‘El colegio elabora videos divulgativos para el apoyo psicológico a personas afectadas por el conflicto bélico en Ucrania’, 30 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3tr7gd8.

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