Place of detention


Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 30/11/20


Foreigner Detention Centres (CIE)


There were 7 Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE) at the end of 2018.[1] These facilities are located in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia, Algeciras / Tarifa – Las Palomas, Barrancoseco – Las 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 well, probably in 2020.


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 were 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.

During 2018, the Spanish Ombudsman in its capacity as National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture carried out different visits to CATEs. Regarding the CATE in San Roque the institution noted an improvement of the conditions (i.e. provision of bunch-beds, kitchen and bathrooms) that can allow a more decent stay. However, the body also noted the lack of the compulsory book registry of detainees and thus formulated a recommendation to the General Directorate of the Police.[4]   


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.[5]

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.[6] Each room at the Barajas Airport can accommodate a maximum of 80 people according to media.[7] These rooms are owned by the public company AENA and are guarded by agents of the National Police.

One of the main incidents occurring in 2017 concerned a group of 54 Saharawi applicants who started a hunger strike due to the long period of detention in Madrid Barajas Airport, the conditions in which they were held and the impossibility to be assisted by specialised NGOs during this period. Their asylum claims were analysed. The Spanish Ombudsman visited Barajas’ Airport facilities in this occasion and after a complaint was presented by CEAR.[8]

Following an unannounced visit carried out in March 2019 by the Spanish Ombudsman at the Madrid Barajas Airport, the latter raised serious concerns about the deplorable conditions of the transit zone. This includes inter alia a lack of space for asylum seekers which does not comply with the required minimum standards, the lack of hot water in female toilets, the lack of access to daylight as well as the lack of medical services and medicine, etc.[9]

[1]For more information on CIE, see El Español, '"Efecto llamada" en los CIEs: 98 fugas y tres motines en dos meses', 29 November 2016, available in Spanish at:; El Diario, ‘Los CIE, en cifras’, 14 June 2015, available at:

[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] Ombusman – National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture, ‘Informe Anual 2018 – Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención’, September 2019, available in Spanish at:

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

[6] Ombudsman, Mapa de los centros de privación de libertad, 5 February 2018, available in Spanish at:

[7] El Diario, ‘Salas de inadmitidos de Barajas: viajeros retenidos durante días sin sus enseres personales’, 9 May 2015, available in Spanish at:

[8] Ombudsman, ‘El Defensor del Pueblo inspecciona la sala de asilo del aeropuerto de Barajas para conocer la situación de un grupo de Saharauis’, 31 August 2017, available in Spanish at:

[9] Cadena Ser, ‘Sin agua caliente y sin medicinas, así son tratados los solicitantes de asilo en Barajas’, 4 April 2019, 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