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, which was 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, and by several organisations of the third sector, academic institutions 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.
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 2020 due to several incidents that took place throughout the year. The section below provides an overview of incidents recently reported in the CIEs.
At the beginning of January 2020, different individuals detained at the CIE of Valencia started a hunger strike to protest against their deprivation of liberty and against the detention of children and ill persons. The Ministry of Interior, which had already announced renovations of the centre at the beginning of 2019, reiterated in January 2020 that these would take place and would last at least until March 2020. A report published in March 2020 by the Fundació Migra Studium further denounces the serious human rights violations occurred at the CIE of Barcelona in 2019, including the detention of 38 unaccompanied children and persons with disabilities.
Following to the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain in March 2020, different organisations forming the ‘National Campaign for the Closure of CIE’ (Campaña Estatal por el Cierre de los CIE) urged the Government to release persons detained at CIEs and top stop issuing new detention orders. Many detainees at the CIEs of Madrid and Barcelona organised protests due to a lack of health measures and the ban on visits, as well as the fact that detainees are not being released even when they can not be deported.
On 18 March 2020 the Government started to release persons from the CIE of Aluche in Madrid that could be not be deported before 29 March 2020 due to the emergency situation and the closure of borders by many countries of origin. The Spanish Ombudsman stated that he was coordinating with the General Commissariat of Aliens and Borders and with the State-Secretary for Migration to ensure that the release of inmates is made in accordance with the health and security measures established by the State of Alarm decree. The Ombudsman also coordinated to ensure a referral mechanism of individuals to the reception system for asylum and to the humanitarian assistance reception places.
On 23 March 2020, the ‘National Campaign for the Closure of CIE’ expressed concerns on the delays in releasing individuals. While acknowledging the release of all migrants at the CIE of Barcelona and of other detention centres across Spain, the organisations composing the campaign reported that only 35% of detainees have been released so far and that the Minister of Interior still maintained around 300 non-expellable persons in detention. They recalled that the COVID-19 situation increases the vulnerability of persons in detention, as well as the possibility of contagion, resulting in different riots and protests in many facilities (e.g. in Madrid and Barcelona but also CIEs in Murcia and Valencia).
On 31 March 2020, when COVID-19 cases were detected, the investigating judge of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria ordered the evacuation of the CIE of Barranco Seco of the Canary Islands. The situation of overcrowding rendered social distancing impossible according to the decision.
By the end of March 2020, deportation procedures were suspended, and by 6 May 2020, all CIEs were emptied. Upon release, migrants were referred to the reception system under the humanitarian assistance programs managed by NGOs.
After the closure of the CIEs, several stakeholders such as the Jesuit Migrant Service or the campaign CIEsNO urged the Government to close these facilities definitely; i.e. in order to avoid that they would be re-opened after the COVID-19 pandemic. The spokesperson of the political party Compromís also asked during a session at the Senate to permanently convert all CIEs into socio-sanitary centres.
However, at the end of September 2020, the Government re-opened CIEs and resumed detentions and deportation flights. According to available information, out of the 700 available places in migrant detention facilities, 186 persons were being detained at CIEs as of 20 October 2020. During the same month, the CIEs in Madrid, Barcelona, Murcia and the Canary Islands re-opened. Many NGOS (i.e. CEAR, SOS Racismo, etc.) criticised the Government’s decision to re-open CIEs and denounced that CIEs do not comply with hygienic and sanitary measures. The NGO Irídia also expressed concerns and called for the closure of all CIEs, underling that their closure during four months, along with the suspension of deportation flights due to the COVID-19 situation, demonstrated that these facilities are not necessary for migration management.
Following the re-opening of CIEs, several riots and protests were organised:
- The announcement of the re-opening of the CIE of Madrid at the beginning of October 2020 resulted in protests by different activists, groups and citizens’ platforms. 41 detainees at the CIE of Madrid started a hunger strike asking to be released given the poor conditions in the facility and the lack of appropriate COVID-19 measures. A few days later, the Platform CIEsNO reported a suicide attempt at the CIE. Other groups of activists called for the closure of the centre which they qualified as an illegal prison.
- At the CIE of Murcia, detainees also started a hunger strike. They considered their detention to be a racist act and complained that a detainee showing COVID-19 symptoms was not being tested.
- The re-opening of the centre in Algeciras and the resumption of renovations for the upcoming CIE also raised strong opposition from the platform CIEsNO, and trade unions.
- Similarly, when the CIEs of Barcelona and Valencia were reopened, the majors of the two cities respectively asked the Ministry of Interior to close all migrant detention centres in Spain. The Major of Barcelona had already made such call earlier in June.
- The CIE of Hoya Fría (Tenerife) was further reopened in December 2020.
Moreover, the re-opening of CIEs also raised criticism and opposition from certain instruction judges:
- At the end of September 2020, the Instruction Judge in Santa Cruz de Tenerife denied the request submitted by the Government Delegation to issue detention orders for 31 Malians. The latter had expressed their intention to apply for international protection as soon as they arrived by boat. As a result, they were transferred to a centre providing humanitarian assistance to migrants.
- In October 2020, the Supervising Judge of the CIE of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria stopped to issue new detention orders, as otherwise there would be issues of overcrowding and it would not be possible to follow COVID-19 measures (i.e. there were already 42 migrants being detained at that time). He also reported his intention to evacuate the facility in case there would be a positive COVID-19 case. In November 2020, the Supervising Judge of the CIE of Barrancoseco in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria further defined the detention conditions as humiliating.
- In November 2020, two NGOs reported to the Supervising Judge the degrading treatment occurring at the CIE of Barcelona, where migrants were being isolated on the basis of COVID-19 measures in degrading conditions (i.e. sleeping and eating on the ground, in rooms without any kind of basic furniture, with no light and no access to sanitary services, etc.). Migrants also reported police assaults and self-harming due to their situation. The following month, the National Court of Barcelona (Audiencia Nacional) ordered the reopening of an investigation at the CIE of Barcelona against three police officers which had reportedly aggressed a detainee. The court considered, however, that there were irregularities in the investigation carried out, which led to closure of the case in February 2021.
- In December 2020 a Moroccan migrant at the CIE of Madrid reported to the Supervising Judge to have been attacked by police officers in charge of the detainees’ security.
However, in January 2021 the Supervising Judge of the CIE of Barcelona refused to close the centre after a COVID-19 case was detected in October 2020, despite the explicit call from the Municipality and some NGOs to do so. Similarly in Murcia in December 2020, an Instruction Judge denied to release 37 Moroccan and Algerian migrants detained at the CIE, following the request made by the ONG Convivir Sin Racismo because of the COVID-19.
The re-opening of CIEs was further contested for their inadequacy in particular with COVID-19 restrictions and sanitary measures. In February 2021, the National Police’s trade union JUPOL called for the immediate closure of the CIE in Hoya Fría (Tenerife) for its ‘condition of ruin’ and the lack of COVID-19 measures. Following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the CIE in Murcia, the NGO Convivir sin Racismo asked the supervising judge of the CIE in Murcia and the Ombudsman to urge the transfer of detainees in order to ensure their access to health assistance. The announcement of the re-opening of the CIEs in Fuerteventura and in Algeciras raised similar critics.
Information on the conditions inside detention centres can be found in the reports from the visits conducted to the CIE by the Spanish Ombudsman, including within its responsibilities as National Prevention Mechanism for Torture. The findings, facts and recommendations concerning the CIE visited by the Ombudsman are available in the Annual Report of 2019, published in 2020, as well as in the report issued by the Spanish Ombudsman in his capacity of National Prevention Mechanism against Torture.
Moreover, the annual report of the Jesuit Migrants Service on CIEs in Spain contains relevant information on conditions and their situation, thanks to the visits that the organisation carries out. In its report of June 2020, which summarises findings of visits carried out in 4 CIEs (in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and Algeciras-Tarifa), the NGO continues to highlight the serious deficiencies of living conditions and the lack of guarantees within those facilities. It also adds that, despite the adoption internal regulation at CIE’s, the functioning of each centre and the applicable rules are still opaque. In addition, the NGO denounces that the serious structural problems have not been solved yet, and that many services do not comply with applicable legal requirements. Visits to the CIE of Aluche in Madrid are regularly carried out by the organisation SOS Racismo, including with the aim to provide legal and psychological support to detainees.
In June 2020, a member of the European Parliament – Miguel Urban – further asked the European Commission to start an investigation at the CIE of Zapadores in Valencia. This follows a report published by the Platform CIEsNO documenting human rights violations at the facility and calling for its closure. This includes degrading, intimidating and racist treatment suffered by around 50 detainees, as well the detention of 12 trafficked persons, 11 unaccompanied children and 2 HIV positive individuals. During the same month, an organisation reported that the Minister of Interior and the Directorate-General of the National Police had tried to hide the suicide of a Moroccan person at the CIE of Valencia in June 2019, in violation of the resolution of the Transparency and Good Governance Council which foresees an obligation to disclose such information.
In November 2020, for the first time in history, the Spanish Government admitted its responsibility for the death of Samba Martine, a migrant detained at the CIE of Madrid who died in 20211. The decision taken by the Government determined that the death was link 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 family of Samba Martine will thus finally be compensated by the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, and SERMEDES S.L.
Activities, health care and special needs
The CIE Regulations governs the provision of services for sanitary assistance, 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. 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 visiting hours, and have access to open air spaces.
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.
In its 2019 Annual Report, published in 2020, the Spanish Ombudsman reiterates his concerns about the different claims he received in 2019 by detainees with illness that are not appropriately treated; thereby concluding that these conditions render a person’s stay at the CIE humiliating. Similarly, the lack of healthcare at the CIEs were reported also by the Jesuit Migrant Service in its 2019 Annual Report on the CIEs. The latter calls for an improvement of the judicial control over the medical assistance provided in such facilities. The same concern has been expressed by the Spanish Ombudsman in his capacity as National Prevention Mechanism against Torture in its 2019 Annual Report.
On a similar note, a member of the Valencian parliamentary group Compromís called upon the Government to ensure decent access to medical care to persons detained at the CIE of Valencia, by letting them access to the public health system.
In December 2020, Cáritas Española further published guidelines to any legal professional that can intervene in a CIE. The publication collects a set of Q&A on different aspects of migration detention in Spain, such as the applicable legal framework, the material conditions and infrastructure of facilities, the provision of health, social and legal assistance in detention, the detainees’ rights and obligations, the functioning of CIEs, etc. It also includes samples of a broad variety of claims and reports that can be submitted according to different aspects related to migrants’ detention.
Conditions in police stations
Migrants detained in police stations after arriving in Spain by sea face dire conditions.
During 2019, the Spanish Ombudsman, in its capacity as National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture, visited 20 National Police’s stations, affirming the inadequacy of the facilities, especially regarding the size of sells, and the overall deficiencies of certain stations. It also highlights concerns regarding the access to toilets and natural light in certain facilities.
A recent report published by the organisation Irídia expressed concerns about the conditions at the CATE of Barranco Seco on the Canary Islands, as it is made out of military tents and reaches a capacity ranging from 800 to 1,000 persons. Migrants are hosted according to the boat they arrived with. The lack of warm food, the limited access to showers and the bad weather conditions (i.e. cold temperatures and humidity) are reported as particular issues.
Conditions in border facilities
Border facilities have been visited and monitored by the Spanish Ombudsman.
The Madrid Barajas Airport continued to raise serious concerns because of its deplorable conditions. In its Annual Report published in 2020, the Spanish Ombudsman reiterates similar concerns expressed in recent years and confirmed that it received numerous complaints on the transit zones, similar to previous years. It reiterated that the non-admission rooms in Madrid Barajas Airport do not comply with the minimum applicable standards. This includes inter alia the fact that men and women are hosted together, the interdiction to use mobile phones (regardless of whether they are denied asylum or not), the limited access to towels and the fact that bed linens are deteriorated. Moreover, the play zone for children is used as warehouse, there is a lack of hot water and overall the infrastructures are not properly maintained nor conserved.
The Spanish Ombudsman also expressed concerns on how the National Police dealt with a case of sexual abuse in 2019 in the transit zone at the Madrid Barajas Airport, as it repatriated the suspected aggressor before a complementary investigation could be carried out.
In 2019, the Ombudsman further carried out also two first-visits to the Reina Sofía Tenerife Sur and Tenerife Norte Airports on the Canary Islands. Following the visits, it reported in particular the inadequacy of the food.
 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.
 Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Sufrimiento Inútil – Informe CIE 2017, June 2018, 8.
 Directa, ‘Interns del CIE de Barcelona protesten per la manca de mesures sanitàries davant la crisi del coronavirus’, 14 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/DtUKQ0j; 20minutos, ‘Internos del CIE de Aluche se amotinan para denunciar su exposición al coronavirus: “Tenemos síntomas”’, 17 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/ftUKPcV.
 El Salto, ‘Interior mantiene en los CIE a casi 300 personas inexpulsables’, 23 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/3tUZHwV; Cuarto Poder, ‘Denuncia desde el CIE de Valencia: “Como se contagie alguien, nos contagiamos todos”’, 28 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/DtUZ7wO.
 Europapress, Marlaska dice que las repatriaciones de migrantes están suspendidas por una “imposibilidad manifiesta” ante el COVID-19, 30 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2MckWWK.
 Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, No retomar el internamiento en los CIE cuando acabe la pandemia, 13 May 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2Mpp4lX; Europapress, Jesuitas lanzan una campaña para pedir al Gobierno que no retome la actividad de los CIE al finalizar la pandemia, 13 May 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3qY5M6k; Irídia, ‘Comunicado de la Campaña Estatal por el cierre de los CIE y el fin de las deportaciones’, 14 May 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3iQqFgK.
 Público, ‘Interior retoma las deportaciones de migrantes argelinos desde los CIE’, 2 December 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/36sk8Ef; El Diario, ‘Interior reabre los CIE cerrados por la pandemia para reactivar la maquinaria de expulsión de inmigrantes’, 24 September 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3ppTbZ0.
 El Salto Diario, Desde dentro del CIE de Aluche: “La gente está lista para morir de hambre”, 30 October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/39k3fgM; Público, 41 internos del CIE de Aluche se declaran en huelga de hambre indefinida, 29 October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3a4KJrV.
 Europapress, ‘Coordinadora CIEs No’ se manifiesta contra la reapertura de los CIE y la construcción de un nuevo en Algeciras (Cádiz), 13 October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2KU7uGq.
 El Confidencial Digital, ‘Los alcaldes de Barcelona y Valencia insisten a Marlaska en el cierre definitivo de todos los CIE tras su reapertura’, 6 October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3qXmnqy.
 El Diario, ‘Una jueza canaria aplica por primera vez la sentencia europea sobre solicitantes de asilo y evita el CIE a 31 malienses’, 28 September 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/39j9ZeF.
 Público, ‘Denuncian trato degradante en el CIE de Barcelona con migrantes aislados por covid “durmiendo y comiendo en el suelo”, 17 November 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3sXUqkr.
 Onda Fuerteventura, ‘Jiménez informa sobre la reapertura ‘inminente’ del CIE de El Matorral’, 5 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/2MbzEx5; Onda Fuerteventura, ‘Asamblea Popular de Fuerteventura se opone a la apertura del CIE de El Matorral’, 19 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3unw3xa; La Voz del Sur, ‘El CIE de Algeciras, una “cárcel” ruinosa que reabre sus puertas en pandemia’, 19 February 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3brWqcD.
 Campaña por el Cierre de los Centros de Internamiento para Extranjeros y el fin de las deportaciones CIE NO, CIE de Zapadores: sin derecho a tener derechos, 15 June 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3t2BoJS.
 Article 14 CIE Regulation.
 Articles 39-47 CIE Regulation.
 Article 42 CIE Regulation.
 Article 40 CIE Regulation.
 El Periodic, ‘Compromís reclama que la asistencia sanitaria a las personas recluidas en los CIE sea prestada por el sistema público’, 18 November 2020, available in Spnaish at: https://bit.ly/2M7a2kT.