Article 62-bis of the Aliens Act provides that civil society organisations defending migrants and international bodies can visit CIE under the conditions foreseen by way of regulation.
The seventh section of the CIE Regulation thus concerns participation and cooperation of NGOs. In particular, Article 58 foresees the possibility to contract NGOs for the provision of services of social assistance inside the centres. Following the adoption of the Regulation in 2014, a contract was signed in 2015 between the Spanish Red Cross and the Ministry of Interior. In addition, Article 59 of the Regulation allows organisations working with migrants to receive a special accreditation to enter CIE and conduct monitoring of the detained persons. Detained migrants could also be able to contact an organisation to which they wish to speak. Before this agreement, the CIE had a stronger penitentiary character and social assistance to detainees was much more limited.
These provisions have been very much welcomed by the Spanish civil society committed to migrants’ rights protection, as they enable their regular access to the centres, which can make a significant difference in improving conditions of detention for third-country nationals. In particular, a better identification of the most vulnerable groups or persons with particular needs can be assured, as no specific mechanism with this aim has been established by the state.
However, the Spanish Ombudsman issued several recommendations on 18 December 2017 to improve the situation in the CIE, as the change envisioned by the CIE Regulation has not yet been realised. Specifically, with regard to social assistance, the Ombudsman asked for instructions for CIE in order to ensure the right of detainees to contact NGOs and the right of NGOs to visit the centres and to meet with them. Thus, despite the existence of the Regulation, most of the formulated measures have not yet been implemented in most of the centres.
In the 2017 annual report, the Ombudsman recalls the several recommendations proposed with the aim of improving social, legal and cultural assistance provided in CIE, as well as the necessity of a deep reform of such facilities. The Ombudsman noted that improvements had not been made during the visits carried out. Similarly in its Annual Report of 2018, the Spanish Ombudsman expressed concerns about the lack of access to legal assistance in CIEs. The absence of socio-cultural and legal assistance was also highlighted by the NGO Jesuit Migrant Service in its Annual Report of 2018 on CIEs as well as the lack of access for NGOs to these facilities.
In its 2019 Annual Report, the Spanish Ombudsman continued to express concerns about the persisting lack of legal assistance at some CIEs. While the facilities in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia provide such services since a couple years, the others don’t. The only information available to the institution is that the Directorate-General of the Police has reached an agreement with the Bar Association of Cádiz, while the CIE in Barranco Seco was not able to reach such an agreement due to lack of funds. The recommendation of reaching agreements with all the competent territorial Bar Associations has been made to the Directorate-General of the Police.
 Ombudsman, Informe Anual 2017 y debates en las Cortes Generales, March 2018, 9.