Place of detention


Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 25/03/21


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 facility, even though no people have been detained there since May 2012.[2] Taking into consideration these 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 it has been announced that the CIE of Fuerteventura will be reopened as a reception centre for migrants under the humanitarian programme at the beginning of 2021.[4]

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 in order 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.[5]

As reported in its 2020 Annual Report, the Spanish Ombudsman in its capacity as National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture carried out six visits to CATEs and other temporary facilities with similar purposes during 2019.[6] Regarding the CATE in San Roque (Cádiz) the Ombudsman noted an improvement of the conditions, as certain recommendations were implemented following a previous visit. This includes improvement of the infrastructure and the creation of a room to conduct private interviews with lawyers.  The Red Cross is further allowed to carry out the initial triage of migrants, so that they can be assisted by NGOs on the same day of their arrival.

Following the visits carried out in 2019, the Spanish Ombudsman in its capacity as National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture asked different CATEs to provide different statistical information; such as disaggregated data on the persons held, the number of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, as well as the number of DNA tests and age assessment procedures carried out.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9] 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] Europapress, ‘El CIE de El Matorral (Fuerteventura) reabrirá en pocas semanas como centro de acogida humanitaria’, 15 December 2020, available in Spanish at:

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

[6] Ibid., 66.

[7] Ibidem, p. 65.

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

[9] 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