Differential treatment of specific nationalities in detention


Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in detention Last updated: 25/03/21


Organisations working with migrants in irregular situation or in the area of immigration detention have always reported that most detained migrants are from Maghreb and sub-Saharan countries. Out of 7,855 persons detained in 2018, 2,801 (36%) were from Morocco and 2,511 (32%) from Algeria.[1] More recent statistics were not available at the time of writing of this report.

The over-representation in detention of people from Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa is explained by the fact that identity checks conducted by police are still mostly based on ethnic and racial profiling. A report issued in 2018 by SOS Racismo highlighted that 31% of detainees they assisted in the CIE of Aluche in Madrid between 2014 and 2017 were detained after a documentation check.[2] The discriminatory attitude and incidents within the Spanish territory have been the subject of several reports and critiques.[3]

In 2017, the Minister of Interior under the previous government presented plans for the new CIE of Algeciras, a model that will be replicated in other CIE in Spain. The only novelty involves distributing the detainees by “sex, nationality and religion”. However, the Minister did not provide any detail about the modalities applicable in these new centres, despite the fact that the project has been ongoing for a year. In January 2019, the Spanish Council of Ministers adopted a new plan which provides for the construction of the new CIE in Algeciras. According to available information, the construction will be carried out in 2020-2021, the new CIE will cover an area of 20,000 m2 and will have a capacity of 500 places.[4] The 2018 Annual Report of the Spanish Ombudsman confirmed that a new CIE in Algeciras would be build,[5] but there has been no follow-up on this as of 2019.

The presentation of the new CIE has been criticised for its discriminatory nature and for arriving at a time when its efficiency as a mechanism of expulsion is doubted, with a percentage of expelled inmates that has not exceeded 30% in 2016. In addition, the majority of NGOs and some political parties[6] demand the closure of the CIE because it is “a violation of human rights in itself”.[7]



[1] SJM, Informe CIE 2018: Discriminación de origen, June 2019, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2MLncE3, 20.

[2] SOS Racismo, Informe CIE 2014 – 2017. Más allá de la frontera de lo humano, July 2018, 25.

[3]  Liberties, “‘Because You’re Black’: Spain Ethnic Profiling Case Goes to Strasbourg”, 25 January 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2sBpiJG; SOS Racismo, ‘Parad de pararme’, available in Spanish at: https://www.pareudepararme.org/testimonios/ .

[4] El Diario, ‘El Gobierno aprueba la construcción del nuevo CIE de Algeciras ideada en la etapa de Rajoy’, 18 January 2019, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2AXo8ga.

[5]  Ombudsman, Informe Anual 2018 – Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención, September 2019, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/IrcWxst, 74.

[6]  La Vanguardia, ‘Pablo Echenique defiende el cierre de los CIE, que considera “cárceles”’, 20 October 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2MiURB5.

[7]  ‘CIE NO – Campaña para el cierre de los centros de internamiento de extranjeros’, available in Spanish at: https://ciesno.wordpress.com/; Alfa y Omega, ‘El Servicio Jesuita de Migrantes pide el cierre de los CIE’, 7 June 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2CvnxCk.

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