Place of detention


Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 22/05/23


Foreigner Detention Centres (CIE)

As already explained above in the General section on detention, there are 7 Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE).[1] These facilities are located in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia, Algeciras / TarifaLas Palomas, BarrancosecoLas Palmas, and Tenerife – Hoya Fría.

Media have reported on the costs incurred by the government for the CIE of Fuerteventura. More than €4 million have been spent to maintain the centre, even though no individual was detained in the facility since May 2012.[2] Taking into consideration the high costs and the fact that it remained empty for 6 years, the CIE was closed in June 2018.[3] However, as previously mentioned, the CIE of Gran Canaria was partially reopened in November 2019, and in November 2021 it was announced that the CIE of Fuerteventura would be reopened part as a CIE and part as a CATE after being used as a reception centre for migrants under the humanitarian programme from February to November 2021.[4]The works for the partial reform of the facility as CIE are still ongoing at the time of writing.[5]


Police stations and CATE

Persons arriving in Spain by sea and automatically issued with detention orders are detained in police stations for a period of 72 hours with a view to the execution of removal measures. Police stations in Málaga, Tarifa, Almería and Motril are mainly used for that purpose.

As mentioned in Access to the Territory, in June 2018 the Spanish Government put in place new resources to manage arrivals and to carry out the identification of persons’ vulnerabilities in the first days of arrival. Specific facilities for emergency and referral include the Centres for the Temporary Assistance of Foreigners (Centros de Atención Temporal de Extranjeros, CATE) and the Centres for Emergency Assistance and Referral (Centros de Atención de Emergencia y Derivación, CAED). While CAED are open facilities, CATE operate under police surveillance and persons cannot go out until they have been identified. As reported by the Spanish Ombudsman, CATEs are not properly regulated and do not fall under specific protocols, as they are considered as “extensions” National Police stations.[6]

After the closure of the Arguineguín dock, which was used as the first place for reception of migrants reaching the Canary Islands, the CATE of Barranco Seco was opened. In its 2022 annual report, the Public Prosecutor office noted that some improvements could be observed in the conditions of the facility. On the contrary, in relation to the CATE of Lanzarote, the Public Prosecutor highlighted various shortcomings, especially for what concerned risks for the health of the individuals it hosted and general unpreparedness to host individuals.[7]

In its 2022 annual report, the Spanish Ombudsman reported that improvements were made for what concerned the detention conditions of persons arriving by sea to the Canary Islands, especially at the CATE of Barranco Seco,[8] and made similar observations concerining the CATEs of Almería, Motril (Granada), Málaga and Cartagena (Murcia).[9] It also remarked that the State Secretary for Security started developing an action protocol – targeting law enforcement agencies – dedicated to pregnant women and other persons in need of specific protection in detention. Information on observations and recommendations made by the institution to the CATEs are mentioned in the section on Arrivals by sea.

UNHCR continued to highlight the need to improve the mechanisms at the CATEs, with the aim of ensuring the possibility for persons in need of protection to apply for asylum during their initial 72 hours in the country, which has so far been hindered.[10]


Border facilities

Applicants at borders are also detained in ad hoc facilities during the admissibility phase and in any case for no more than 8 days. According to the OAR, operational transit zones are mainly those in Madrid Barajas Airport and Barcelona El Prat Airport, accommodating up to 200 and 10 people respectively.[11]

There is evidence of one “non-admission room” (Sala de Inadmisión de Fronteras) in Barcelona El Prat Airport, one room in Málaga Airport and two rooms in Terminals 1 and 4 of the Madrid Barajas Airport.[12] These rooms are owned by the public company AENA and are guarded by agents of the National Police.




[1] For more information on CIE, see Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2019. Diez años mirando al otro lado’, December 2020, available at:, 4.

[2] El Confidencial, ‘Dos documentos oficiales elevan a más de 4 millones de euros el gasto en un CIE vacío’, 3 December 2017, available in Spanish at:

[3] El Diario, ‘Interior ordena el cierre del CIE de Fuerteventura, que ha gastado millones de fondos públicos pese a estar vacío’, 26 June 2018, available in Spanish at:

[4] Radio sintonía, ‘Cierra el antiguo CIE de El Matorral’, 25 November 2021, available at:; Diario Fuerteventura, ‘El campamento de inmigrantes de El Matorral cerrará a finales de noviembre’, 26 November 2021, available at:

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

[6] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2019. Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención’, October 2020, available at:, 66.’

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

[8] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2022. Volumen I’, March 2023, available at:

[9] Ibidem.

[10] US Department of State, ‘2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Spain’, 20 March 2023, available at:

[11] Information provided by OAR, 8 March 2019.

[12] Ombudsman, Mapa de los centros de privación de libertad, 5 February 2018, 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