Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 22/05/23


Conditions in CIE

According to Article 62-bis of the Aliens Act, CIEs are public establishments of a non-penitentiary nature. Admission to and stay in these facilities shall be solely for preventive and precautionary purposes, safeguarding the rights and freedoms recognised in the legal system, with no limitations other than those applying to their freedom of movement, in accordance with the content and purpose of the judicial detention order of admission.

Article 62-bis of the Aliens Act further entails a list of rights recognised to the detained individuals. This includes the right to be informed and to have access to a lawyer, to an interpreter, to appropriate medical and health support as well as access to NGOs working with migrants. They also have the right to have their life, physical integrity and health respected, and to have their dignity and privacy preserved. The conditions for the access to NGOs as well as the access to adequate social and health care services must be laid down by way of regulation.

The CIE Regulation,[1] adopted in 2014, provides in its Article 3 that:

“The competences on direction, coordination, management and inspection of the centres correspond to the Ministry of the Interior and they are exercised through the General Directorate of the police, who will be responsible for safety and security, without prejudice to judicial powers concerning the entry clearance and control of the permanence of foreigners.”

The Ministry of the Interior is also responsible for the provision of health and social care in the centres, notwithstanding whether such service can be arranged with other ministries or public and private entities.

On the operation and living conditions within the CIE, there is scarce official information provided by the administrations responsible for their management. Due to this lack of transparency, during the last years several institutions and NGOs have developed actions of complaint and denounce shortcomings in the functioning of the CIE. Examples of these activities are the specialised annual reports by the Ombudsman (and its respective representatives at regional level), by the State Prosecutor,[2] and by several organisations of the third sector, academic institutions[3] and media. In addition, valuable information is contained in the rulings of the judicial bodies responsible for controlling stays in the CIE (Jueces de Control de Estancia).

While the CIE Regulation was long awaited, it was established with many aspects to be improved and ignoring many of the recommendations formulated by the aforementioned entities. This is reflected by the decision of the Supreme Court, which, right after the adoption of the Regulation, cancelled four of its provisions as contrary to the Returns Directive, regarding the need to establish separated units for families, procedural safeguards on second-time detention and prohibition of corporal inspections.[4]

Conditions and riots

Even though under the law CIE do not have the status of a prison, the reality in practice suggests otherwise and conditions of detention therein are still not satisfactory. CIE continued to be the object of high public scrutiny and have attracted media and NGO attention during 2022 due to several incidents that took place throughout the year. The section below provides an overview of incidents recently reported in the CIEs between 2022 and the beginning of 2023.

Various issues emerged regarding the conditions in CIEs due to the Covid pandemic: for more information see AIDA reports 2020 and 2021.

Throughout 2022 and at the beginning of 2023, the following developments and incidents were registered:

  • In January 2022, inmates at the CIE of Valencia denounced the lack of appropriate prevention and isolation measures in the facility, after one third of the 99 detainees resulted positive to COVID-19.[5] The Platform CIEs NO denounced that the centre’s director had not notified the situation to the Public Health System.[6]
  • In the same month, different organisations informed the Supervising Judge of the improper management of a COVID-19 outbreak at the CIE of Barcelona, due to the lack of proper measures to isolate infected persons, what has also caused situations of conflict and tension in the facility.[7]
  • In January 2022, an Algerian man escaped from the CIE of Valencia by climbing a wall and stole a bicycle to run away.[8]
  • In February 2022, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Government to release an Algerian 16-years-old boy detained at the CIE of Algeciras, stop his deportation and refer him to a minor protection centre.[9] Despite that, in March he was still held in the facility.[10]
  • In March 2022, the Algerian former soldier and activist Mohamed Benhlima was detained in the CIE of Valencia and then deported to Algeria after his asylum application was denied, despite the calls by the CIEsNO campaign and by Amnesty International to avoid his deportation, for being at risk of inhumane treatment and torture in his country of origin.[11]
  • During the same month, the campaign CIEsNO asked for the immediate release of all Algerian migrants detained at the CIE of Algeciras, considering that Algeria suspended indefinitely all the deportations to the country, as a consequence of the new political position of Spain regarding the Western Sahara. According to the CIEsNO campaign, as detention at the CIE is functional to carry out an expulsion, Algerian migrants have to be released for the impossibility to deport them to Algeria.[12]
  • In April 2022, three NGOs denounced that Moroccan and Algerian migrants detained at the CIE of Algeciras had been lied to, and told they would obtain freedom if they renounced to their asylum application in writing. The case was brought to light after an activist from the Rif region (Morocco) started a 47-day hunger strike to protest against his expulsion, who was also mislead in a similar fashion.[13]
  • In mid-May 2022, a group of inmates tried to escape from the CIE of Barranco Seco in Gran Canaria but were stopped by the police. On the contrary, at the beginning of the same month a group of 20 migrants, who wanted to avoid expulsion, managed to escape. The police apprehended 11 of them, and 3 persons had to be referred to the hospital for the injuries provoked by jumping the facility’s wall.[14] A hunger strike of around 15 inmates was also reported as a form of protest for the lack of respect of their religious belief and the physical and psychological ill-treatment suffered at the facility.[15]
  • In July 2022, an inmate at the CIE of Valencia denounced four police officers for beating him after he had asked for medical assistance.[16] A witness confirmed the incident in court.[17]
  • During the same month, four Moroccan inmates escaped from the same centre by breaking the bars and using bed sheets as cords.[18] In addition, the campaign ‘CIEsNO’ exposed the National Police at the Instruction Judge nº 3 of Valencia for spying on the inmates and thus for violating their right to privacy while receiving visits.[19] In September 2022, detainees at the CIE of Zapadores in Valencia started a hunger strike to protest against the quality of food (including due to the presence of worms in the food served) and lack of drinkable water at the facility.[20] After said protests, the Office for Public Health decided to carry out an inspection on food security at the facility.[21]
  • In the same month, an inmate at the CIE of Valencia alleged having been assaulted and beat by four police officers after complaining for a toothache.[22]
  • In October 2022, a senator of the political party Compromís declared that the Government had not adopted appropriate measures following the beating of an inmate at the CIE of Zapadores (Valencia) by four police officers. The Government answered to the parliamentary questions presented by the senator affirming that supervising judges have competence to investigate such matters.[23]
  • In November 2022, the Minister of Interior expelled two Islamic activists, Mohamed Said Badaoui and Amarouch Azbir, after detaining them at the CIE of Barcelona[24] for allegedly carrying out pro-jihadist activities, without sufficient evidence, according to some sources. The activists were legally residing in Cataluña for 30 and 20 years respectively.[25]
  • In December 2022, the family of a Moroccan inmate who died while detained in the CIE of Valencia in 2019 accused the Government for his death; while according to prison authorities he committed suicide, the family alleged suffered violence and could not access medical assistance while in detention.[26]
  • In February 2023 the supervising judge of the CIE of Valencia, following the reports made by NGOs on the lack of privacy of inmates during the meetings with the same organisations, and on the spying of conversations by the police.[27]

Information on the conditions within detention centres is available in the reports from the CIE visits conducted by the Spanish Ombudsman, including those within its responsibilities as National Prevention Mechanism against Torture. The findings, facts and recommendations concerning the CIE visited by the Ombudsman are available in the Annual Report of 2021, published in 2022,[28] as well as in the report issued by the Spanish Ombudsman in his capacity of National Prevention Mechanism against Torture.[29]

In its 2021  annual report, the Spanish Ombudsman in his capacity of National Prevention Mechanism against Torture informed that the Directorate-General of the National Police rejected the recommendation made by the body to adopt a protocol so submit and manage claims and reports of abuses and mistreatments by inmates at CIE.[30] As already mentioned, the supervising judges of the CIE of Madrid adopted a set of measures in 2022 providing for the obligation of the authorities in, establishing a protocol for the processing of claims and reports of mistreatments suffered by inmates, as well as the obligation to transfer the complainant at the supervising judge in order to guarantee his/her right to effective remedies.[31] In its 2022 annual report, the Spanish Ombudsman acknowledges that such decisions are in line with the recommendations made by the body in the past years and with the main claims it received in 2022.[32]

Moreover, the annual report of the Jesuit Migrants Service on CIEs in Spain provides relevant information on conditions and their situation, based on visits carried out by the organisation.[33] In its 2022 report, the NGO continued to highlight the serious deficiencies of living conditions and the lack of guarantees within those facilities. Concretely, the organisation denounced the impact on the mental health of inmates due to prolonged isolation following COVID-19 contagion. It also highlighted the challenges that inmates faced in reporting ill-treatment by the police, among which isolation following the realisation of the report, presence of the police during the medical examinations, the speeding-up of the forced returns, harassments of complainants, etc. Visits to the CIE of Aluche in Madrid are regularly carried out by the organisation SOS Racismo, with the objective, among others, of providing legal and psychological support to detainees.[34]

Additionally, the annual report of the Public Prosecutor office informs about the conditions at the CIEs, in light of the visits that the institution carries out. According to the last report published, the Public Prosecutor informs about the unhealthy conditions of the CATE in Lanzarote.[35]

The Spanish Government admitted its responsibility for the death of Samba Martine, a migrant detained at the CIE of Madrid who died in 2011 for the first time in November 2020. The decision taken by the Government determined that the death was linked to the malfunctioning of the CIE of Madrid, the CETI of Melilla and the private company SERMEDES S.L. in charge of providing medical assistance at the CIE. After 8 years of litigation, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, and SERMEDES S.L. accepted to compensate Samba Martine’s family.[36] No further information regarding whether the compensation was received by the family was actually made at the time of writing.

Activities, health care and special needs

The CIE Regulations governs the provision of services for sanitary assistance,[37] including access to medical and pharmaceutical assistance (and hospital assistance when needed), and contains provisions concerning clean clothes, personal hygiene kits and diets that take into account personal requirements.[38] In the same way, Article 15 of the Regulation concerns the provision of services for social, legal and cultural assistance, which can be provided by contracted NGOs. Detained third-country nationals can receive visits from relatives during the established hours,[39] and have access to open air spaces.[40]

As regards families with children in detention, although the Regulation did not initially foresee ad hoc facilities, the 2015 ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court obliged the detention system for foreigners to provide separated family spaces. Officially recognised unaccompanied minors are not detained in CIE, although there have been several reported cases of non-identified minors in detention.

Notwithstanding legal provisions, and the improvement in conditions after the adoption of the CIE Regulation, each centre still presents deficiencies, as the establishment of specific available services depends on each of the CIE directors.

In general, shortcomings have been reported concerning structural deficiencies or significant damages which may put at risk the health and safety of detained persons, overcrowding, absence of differentiated modalities for persons who have committed mere administrative infractions, restrictions to visits or to external communications, frequent lack of material for leisure or sports activities. In addition, the provision of legal, medical, psychological and social assistance is limited and not continuous; detained persons often lack information regarding their legal situation, their rights or the date of their return when removal is applicable. Also, interpreters and translators are often not available in practice.

Concerning the situation in 2022, the Spanish Ombudsman recalled the necessity for the CIE of Madrid to ensure access to psychological support for inmates.[41] Similarly, in its 2022 annual report on the situation of CIEs, the Jesuit Migrant Service highlighted deficiencies in the provision of medical services, such as the fact that medical examinations  were often carried out in the presence of police officials, the lack of mental health assistance, the isolation regime for COVID-19 cases, the lack of interpreters during medical assistance, etc.[42]

In November 2022, the Supervising Judges of the CIE of Aluche (Madrid) agreed on a set of measures to improve the health assistance provided to inmates, such as allowing the use of the infirmary also during the night, the provision of psychological assistance and the digital health record. Such judicial decision obliges the Directorate-General of the Police, who oversees the CIE’s management, to improve these aspects.[43]

In September 2022, the Municipality and the Bar Association of Barcelona signed an agreement on the provision of legal assistance to inmates at the CIE of Barcelona.[44]


Conditions in police stations

Migrants detained in police stations after arriving in Spain by sea face dire conditions.

During 2022, the Spanish Ombudsman, in its capacity as National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture, visited4 CATEs and continued to call for the necessity to establish a regulation of such facilities. In addition, the body highlighted certain deficiencies of the facilities visited (i.e. lack of ventilation in the cells, of basic furniture, of curtain in the showers, etc.)  .[45]

A thematic report published in May 2022 by the organisation Irídia expressed concerns about the conditions at the CATEs in the Canary Islands and the reiterated human rights violations occurring in such facilities.[46]


Conditions in border facilities

Border facilities have been visited and monitored by the Spanish Ombudsman, also in its capacity as National Prevention Mechanism against Torture.

The situation of the “non-admission room” in Madrid Barajas Airport has raised serious concerns in recent years because of its deplorable conditions. Concerns continued to be raised in 2022 by Spanish Ombudsman in its capacity as National Prevention Mechanism against Torture, who underlined the deficiencies of the facility in terms of maintenance and hygiene, the lack of natural light, the lack of access to public phones, the lack of improvements in the conditions of stay, the impossibility to change money, the inexistence of a medical service, etc.[47]




[1] Real Decreto 162/2014, de 14 de marzo, por el que se aprueba el reglamento de funcionamiento y régimen interior de los centros de internamiento de extranjeros.

[2] See e.g.

[3] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Sufrimiento Inútil – Informe CIE 2017, June 2018, 8.

[4] El Pais, ‘El Supremo anula cuatro articulos de la norma de los Centros de Inetrnamiento’, 27 January 2015, available at:

[5] El Salto Diario, ‘El CIE de Zapadores de València, sin capacidad para aislar a los contagiados, registra 20 casos de covid entre los internos’, 11 January 2022, available at:; Levante, ‘Un brote de covid afecta a un tercio de los 99 internos del CIE de Zapadores de València’, 11 January 2022, available at:; Cadena Ser, ‘La campaña CIEs NO denuncia la falta de medidas de prevención y aislamiento en el CIE de Zapadores’, 10 January 2022, available at:

[6] Levante, ‘El CIE de Zapadores no notificó los contagios en el interior del centro a Salud Pública’, 14 January 2022, available at:; El Salto Diario, ‘CIEs No denuncia que la dirección de Zapadores en València no notificó los contagios de Covid a Salud Pública’, 14 January 2022, available at:

[7]  La Vanguardia, ‘Una asociación denuncia la mala gestión de un brote de covid en el CIE de la Zona Franca’, 26 January 2022, available at:

[8] Las Provincias, ‘Un joven argelino se fuga del CIE de Valencia tras trepar por un muro y robar una bicicleta’, 15 January 2022, available at:

[9] Público, ‘La ONU pide detener la expulsión de un menor internado el CIE de Algeciras pese a tener documentación que aclara su edad’, 21 February 2022, available at:

[10] Público, ‘Un menor sigue en el CIE de Algeciras después de un mes y una resolución de la ONU que pide su puesta en libertad’, 2 March 2022, available at:

[11] El Diario, ‘El militar y activista argelino Mohamed Benhlima, encerrado en el CIE de Valencia y al borde de la deportación’, 17 March 2022, available at:; Levante, ‘CIEsNO pide a Interior que paralice la expulsión de un activista argelino que denunció la corrupción de su país’, 17 March 2022, available at: ; El Diario, ‘El Gobierno deniega la protección internacional al activista y exmilitar argelino encerrado en el CIE de Valencia’, 22 March 2022, available at:; La Opinión de Murcia, ‘España deporta a Argelia al activista Mohamed Benhalima’, 25 March 2022, available at:

[12] Cadena Ser, ‘CIEs No solicita la inmediata puesta en libertad de los argelinos internos en Algeciras’, 31 March 2022, available at:

[13] El Diario, ‘Tres ONGs denuncian “chantajes” en el CIE de Algeciras a marroquíes y argelinos: libertad por renunciar al asilo’, 15 April 2022, available at:

[14] El Diario, ‘La Policía Nacional frustra un nuevo intento de fuga en el CIE de Gran Canaria’, 19 May 2022, available at:

[15] Radio Televisión canaria (RTVC), ‘Somos Red informa de una huelga de hambre en el CIE de Barranco Seco por el trato a un grupo de migrantes’, 2 May 2022, available at:

[16] El Salto Diario, ‘Un interno del CIE Zapadores denuncia a cuatro policías por darle una paliza al pedir asistencia médica’, 28 July 2022, available at:

[17] El Diario, ‘Un testigo corrobora ante el juez que cuatro policías apalizaron a un interno en el CIE de València que se quejó de un dolor de muelas’, 11 August 2022, available at:

[18] La Provincias, ‘Cuatro internos se fugan del CIE de Valencia tras romper un barrote y hacer una cuerda con sábanas’, 21 July 2022, available at:

[19] Cadena Ser, ‘La campaña ‘CIE’s No’ denuncia a la Policía Nacional por espionaje en el CIE de València’, 20 July 2022, available at:

[20] Levante – El Mercantil Valenciano, ‘Los internos del CIE de Zapadores se declaran en huelga de hambre’, 8 September 2022, available at:; Levante – El Mercantil Valenciano,  ‘Comida en mal estado en el CIE de Zapadores’, 8 September 2022, available at:; El Diario, ‘Huelga de hambre de internos del CIE de Zapadores por gusanos en la comida y falta de agua durante las olas de calor’, 9 September 2022, available at:

[21] 20 minutos, ‘Salud Pública envía inspección al CIE de Zapadores ante la huelga de hambre de internos al hallar gusanos en la comida’, 9 September 2022, available at:  

[22] El Diario, ‘Segunda denuncia en poco más de un mes por agresión de cuatro policías a internos del CIE de València’, 14 September 2022, available at:

[23] El Diario, ‘El Gobierno se desentiende de la agresión denunciada en el CIE de València: “Corresponde al juez visitar los centros”’, 4 October 2022, available at:; La Razón, ‘Compromís denuncia que el Gobierno no haya tomado medidas tras la paliza a un interno en el centro de Zapadores (Valencia)’, 2 October 2022, available at:

[24] El Salro Diario, ‘El caso Badaoui agita el debate sobre la islamofobia de estado’, 25 October 2022, available at:; ABC, ‘Badaoui recurre su internamiento en el CIE por un informe policial «carente de fundamento»’, 27 October 2022, available at:; El País, ‘En libertad el activista Amarouch Azbir, detenido por su radicalización y pendiente de expulsión’, 22 October 2022, available at:; El Mundo, ‘El juzgado ordena el internamiento en el CIE del extremista islámico arropado por el soberanismo’, 21 October 2022, available at:

[25] El Día de Valladolid, ‘Expulsado de España un líder islamista acusado de proyihadismo, 19 November 2022, available at:; Público, ‘Interior expulsa a Marruecos al activista musulmán Mohamed Badaoui, acusado sin pruebas de ser islamista radical’, 19 November 2022, available at:; Europa Press, ‘Mohamed Said, el lider islámico de Reus, desde Casablanca: “Nos han expulsado en un avión solo para nosotros dos”’, 20 November 2022, available at:

[26] El Salto Diario, ‘Khadija Abouobaida: “Lo que le pasó a mi hermano es responsabilidad del Estado”, 12 December 2022, available at:

[27] El Diario, ‘Un juez abre un expediente de control al CIE de Valencia por las denuncias de “espionaje” de las ONG’, 14 February 2023, available at:; Cadena Ser, ‘Un juzgado de València pide al CIE de Zapadores que informe sobre un supuesto espionaje de policías a internos’, 14 February 2023, available at:

[28] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2021 y debates en las Cortes Generales. Volumen I. Informe’, March 2022, available at:

[29] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe Anual 2021 – Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención’, May 2022, available at:

[30] Ibidem, p. 68. El Salto Diario, ‘La Policía se niega a regular un protocolo de quejas de malos tratos y torturas en los CIE’, 13 September 2022, available at:

[31] Público, ‘Los jueces del CIE de Madrid​ acuerdan un protocolo para investigar las agresiones a internos’, 18 May 2022, available at:

[32] Defensor del Pueblo, Informe Anual 2022 – Volumen I, March 2023, available at:, 168.

[33] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2021 – Territorio hostil. Formas diversas de hostilidad en los CIEs’, May 2022, available at:

[34] SOS Racismo, see:

[35] Fiscalía General del Estado, ‘Memoria del Ministerio Fiscal de 2022 – Ejercicio 2021’, September 2022, available at:

[36] El Salto Diario, ‘El Estado español admite su responsabilidad en la muerte de Samba Martine’, 17 November 2020, available in Spanish at:

[37] Article 14 CIE Regulation.

[38] Articles 39-47 CIE Regulation.

[39] Article 42 CIE Regulation.

[40] Article 40 CIE Regulation.

[41] Defensor del Pueblo, Informe Anual 2022 – Volumen I, March 2023, available at:

[42] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2021 – Territorio hostil. Formas diversas de hostilidad en los CIEs’, May 2022, available at:

[43] Europa Press, ‘Jueces del CIE de Aluche requieren asistencia sanitaria 24h a internos, atención psicológica e historia clínica digital’, 22 November 2022, available at:; La Vanguardia, ‘Los jueces de control del CIE de Madrid piden subsanar sus “graves deficiencias sanitarias”’, 22 November 2022, available at:

[44] Metropoli Abierta, ‘Abogados de Barcelona darán orientación jurídica a los extranjeros del CIE’, 16 September 2022, available at:

[45] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2022. Volumen I. Anexo A – Informe Completo del Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención (MNP), March 2023, available in Spanish at:

[46] Irídia, ‘Nuevas vulneraciones de derechos humanos a las personas migrantes en Canarias’, May 2022, available at:  , January 2021, available in Spanish at:

[47] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2022. Volumen I. Anexo A – Informe Completo del Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención (MNP), March 2023, available in Spanish at:

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