Country Report: General Last updated: 22/05/23


In recent years, the following numbers of individuals have been subjected to immigration detention:

Immigration detention in Spain: 2016-2022
Year 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total of persons in detention 7,597[1] 8,814[2] 7,855[3] 6,473[4] 2,224[5] 1,841[6] 2,082[7]

According to the 2022 Annual Report of the Spanish Ombudsman, 2,082 migrants were detained in 2022.[8]

Persons already undergoing an asylum procedure are not detained. However, people who apply for asylum after being placed in detention, both in detention centres for foreigners, called Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE), and in penitentiary structures, remain detained pending the decision on admission to the asylum procedure. Thus, CIEs centres are theoretically not designed for the detention of asylum seekers, but rather for the detention of migrants who are found to be living without residence permit on the Spanish territory, or for those who are found to have entered irregularly the Spanish territory, and have to be expelled or repatriated under the Aliens Act. In 2022, 932 persons applied for asylum from CIEs.[9]

The competent authority to authorise and, where appropriate, annul the placement in a CIE is the Provincial Court (Audiencia Provincial) which has territorial jurisdiction over the place where detention is imposed. Moreover, the arrest of a foreigner shall be communicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy or consulate of the person detained, when detention is imposed with the purpose of return as a result of the refusal of entry.[10]

If the applicant is detained, the urgent procedure will be applied, which halves the time limits for a decision (see Prioritised Examination). The quality of the asylum procedure when the application is made from detention is affected mostly in relation to access to information on international protection, which is not easily available, and access to legal assistance, as communication is not as easy as for asylum seekers at liberty. In addition, several shortcomings are due to the urgent procedure to which applicants are subject, as it hinders access to appeals once the application is rejected, and a subsequent order of removal is applied.

In practice, asylum seekers can also be detained if their international protection needs are not identified or if they have not access to the asylum procedure. By way of illustration, a former Algerian soldier and activist who arrived to Almería by boat in mid-February 2022, applied for asylum at the CIE of Valencia by claiming he was victim of torture in his country of origin. His two asylum applications were denied, so he lodged an appeal in front of the National Court (Audiencia Nacional), based inter alia on different reports issued by UNHCR, Doctors of the World and Phycologists without Borders which stated his delicate physical and psychological conditions, requesting his release. Despite the National Court ruling against his expulsion in mid-March, the expulsion order was executed. The director of the CIE informed that the deportation was carried out because of a mistake in the interpretation of the National Court’s decision.[11] Different organisations, such as Amnesty International, not to deport him, as he would be at risk of torture in case to return to Algeria. After his return, the applicant was sentenced to the death penalty and confined while in prison.[12] Amnesty International and the campaign ‘CIEsNO’ asked Spain to pressure Algeria to free the activist.[13] He finally obtained a visa to return to Spain.[14]

In Spain there are 7 CIEs which are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. These facilities are located in Algeciras, Barcelona, Las Palmas, Madrid, Murcia, Tenerife, and Valencia, making up a total capacity of 1,288 places, according to available information.[15] It has to be noted that the total capacity can vary according to possible improvements’ works, temporary closures, maintenance works, etc. Between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, a prison in Archidona (near Málaga) was provisionally used as a CIE in order to respond to the increase in sea arrivals, while the CIE of Tarifa was permanently closed in 2020.

There have been several developments in 2022 and beginning of 2023 regarding CIEs:

  • In May 2022, the Supervising Judges of the CIE of Aluche in Madrid adopted a resolution establishing a set of measures aiming at reinforcing guarantees for inmates, such as the right to effective judicial remedies, access to the right to asylum, the activity of NGOs and social services, and the right to protection of health.[16] Different organisations, such as Pueblos Unidos and CIEsNO Madrid requested other CIEs in Spain to adopt similar recommendations.[17]
  • The situation of many migrants detained at the CIE of Barranco Seco in Gran Canaria for having received return orders signed in 2020 or 2021 was denounced for being contrary to the law. In fact, such orders were issued when migrants arrived at the Spanish borders in light of the return procedure, and thus they cannot legitimate detention and expulsion, because a proper legal procedure for that was never opened against them.[18]
  • In its 2021 Annual Report, the Spanish Ombudsman[19] recommended to the Directorate-General of the National Police to provide appropriate instructions to CIEs so that they would facilitate certain data to the Ombudsman’s office. In particular, the age of migrants detained at CIEs, the duration of their stay, and the identity of the asylum applicants, both of those applying for international protection while in detention and of those inappropriately detained for not being able to demonstrate their condition of asylum seekers.
  • The Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA)questioned the necessity of the existence of the CIE of Algeciras and the construction of a new facility, also considering that just eight expulsions were carried out from the centre in 2021.[20]
  • In view of the regional elections in the Autonomous Community of Andalucía, the organisation Andalucía Acoge presented a 10-points policy proposal, which includes the closure of the CIEs and to block the construction of the new facility in Algeciras.[21]
  • In a report on the human rights violations of migrants in the Canary Islands published by the NGO Irídia on May 2022, the organisation denounced the practice of carrying out police raids based on ethnical profile against migrants.[22]
  • The Jesuit Migrant Service defined the CIEs as ‘hostile territory’ in its 2021 annual report on CIEs, and asked for their definitive closure.[23]
  • In June 2022, the campaign ‘CIEsNO’ organised a protest in front of the CIE of Algeciras, ; one of the main objectives of the demonstration was to oppose the construction of a new CIE in the city, with a very high cost (which might be of around 26 million Euros).[24] It is worth to recall that in October 2020, the Government announced the construction of a new CIE in Algeciras with a capacity of 500 places, and the plan of opening it in 2022. The facility is still under construction at the time of writing, and the date of its opening is still not known.[25]
  • In September, the organisations Caminando Fronteras and Coordinadora de Barrios denounced that the Government had deported an Ivorian young migrant from the Canary Islands to Morocco, despite a judicial order had suspended his deportation.[26]
  • In October, the works to restructure the CIE in Murcia The facility, after its closure in July 2021, was still not reopened at the time of writing of this report. The works aimed at improving security aspects, but also certain elements for ameliorating the living conditions of inmates, such as a prayer room, a laundry, a night living room, etc.[27]
  • In October the Government announced it would allocate 11 million Euros for the construction of the new CIE in Algeciras.[28]
  • In the same month, the Unified Association of Civil Guards (Asociación Unificada de Guardias Civiles – AUGC) requested the Government to authorise the construction of a CIE in Almería, as well as to provide additional support to the Armed Forces due to the increase in migrants’ arrivals.[29]
  • In occasion of the World Migrants Day on 18 December, a demonstration to call for the closure of the CIE in Algeciras was organised by the Coordinator of the CIEsNo campaign of Cádiz.[30]
  • Following a Parliament request made by the member of the Parliament Jon Iñarritu and a request made by the newspaper ‘Newtral’ to the Transparency Portal, during 16 years (from 2006 to 2022) a total of 9 persons died in CIEs. The majority (44%) committed suicide, while 36% deaths were caused by health reasons. The majority of deaths occurred at the CIEs of Barcelona and Valencia.[31]
  • In January 2023, the reform of the Madrid CIE started, with an estimate budget of more than 800,000 Euros.[32] After the closure of the facility, inmates have been transferred to another CIE, returned to their countries of origin or freed.[33]
  • During the same month, 21 out of the 22 migrants who fled from an airplane in Palma de Mallorca in November 2021 after the plane carried out an emergency landing in the island for an alleged medical urgency, will be transferred to the CIE of Barcelona. This is due to the decision taken by the Provincial Court of Baleares which ruled they should be freed after the reform of the crime of sedition.[34] The migrant who faked the medical urgency was instead freed, as his deportation to Morocco cannot be carried out as he was charged with the crime of smuggling and is waiting for the result of the criminal proceeding.[35] At least three among them applied for asylum at the CIE, alleging the risk of persecution (for political reasons and for sexual orientation) if returned to Morocco.[36]
  • In February 2023, the unit for women at the CIE of Barcelona was opened despite the lack of prior announcements. Twelve women, coming from different parts of Spain, were detained in it at the time of its opening. More than 100 organisations denounced the lack of transparency regarding such an opening and asked for its closure.[37]
  • During the same month, the General Council of Judiciary Power (Consejo General del Poder Judicial – CGPJ) in plenary endorsed unanimously the protocol for the forensic medical examination to be applied to persons in prison, as well as to persons detained at CIEs.[38]
  • The right-wing party registered a law proposal at the Congress which aims at prohibiting the right to apply for asylum at the CIE.[39]
  • In March 2023, the Platform CIEsNO denounced that a young Moroccan guy, who had been under the guardianship of the Autonomous Community of Madrid while underage, has been detained during 1 month at the CIE of Valencia, despite the High Court of Madrid (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Madrid) had suspended his deportation.[40] The political party Unidas Podemos denounced the issue at the Congress.[41]
  • During the same month, the campaign CIEsNO denounced the risk for a homosexual guy from Kosovo detained at the CIE of Valencia to be subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment if deported to Serbia.[42] The man is detained despite he applied for international protection and is waiting for a decision on the claim.[43]

In its 2022 annual report, the Spanish Ombudsperson continued to express concern over the conditions at CIEs,especially in relation to the access of inmates to health assistance and to the access to complaint mechanisms for mistreatments.[44]

As regards deportations, an important decision was issued by the CJEU in October 2020. The Court ruled that, in light of the Immigration Law, Spain cannot expel migrants just for being undocumented, and that expulsion should be carried out only when aggravating circumstances exist.[45] According to the Jesuit Migrant Service, only 17% of migrants detained at CIEs for irregular stay were returned to their countries in 2021, and more than one third of those detained had to be released from detention.[46]

Asylum seekers may also be de facto detained in “areas of rejection at borders” (Salas de Inadmisión de fronteras) at international airports and ports for a maximum of 8 days, until a decision is taken on their right to enter the territory. A total of 2,714 persons applied at a border post or transit zone in 2022.[47]

In October 2022, the Consitutional Court upheld the appeal lodged by a Moroccan migrant who arrived in the Canary Islands in December 2020; the Court established that  his fundamental rights had been violated by the Police and the Instruction judge nº 5 of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which did not grant him access to legal assistance while in the return procedure.[48]

A report published by Migra Studium in December 2022 denounced the lack of transparency and hostile environment at the CIE of Barcelona, as well as the difficulties for inmates in receiving visits by NGOs and family members.[49] Similarly, the 2022 annual report on the situation of CIEs elaborated by the Jesuit Migrant Service denounced that they are unfair and hostile structures, and it called once again for their closure.[50]




[1] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2019. Diez años mirando a otro lado – Anexo’, July 2020, available at:, 39.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2019. Diez años mirando a otro lado’, July 2020, available at:

[5] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2020. Razón jurídica y sin razón política – Anexo’, June 2021, available at:, 5.

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

[7] Defensor del Pueblo, ‘Informe anual 2022 – Volumen I’, March 2023, p. 168, available at:

[8] Ibidem.

[9] Ministry of Interior, Avance de solicitudes de protección internacional: Datos provisionales acumulados entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de diciembre de 2022, available in Spanish at:

[10] Articles 60(4) and 62(5) Aliens Act.

[11] El Periódico, ‘Interior desobedece a la Audiencia Nacional y deporta desde Valencia a un argelino que denunció torturas’, 23 May 2022, available at:

[12] Cadena Ser, ‘Un tribunal militar de Argel condena a pena de muerte al activista Mohamed Benhalima, que deportó España’, 14 May 2022, available at:; El Español, ‘El disidente argelino que deportó Marlaska cumple 3 semanas en aislamiento “desnutrido y aturdido”’, 6 June 2022, available at:

[13] Cope, ‘Amnistía pide a España presionar a Argelia para liberar a condenado a muerte’, 17 May 2022, available at:; Levante, ‘CIEs NO pide el retorno “urgente” del argelino deportado en contra de la Audiencia Nacional’, 24 May 2022, available at:  

[14] Público, ‘El argelino deportado por Interior en contra de la Audiencia Nacional consigue el visado para volver a España’, 26 May 2022, available at:

[15] Ministerio de Inclusión, Seguridad Social y Migraciones, ‘Marco Estratégico de Redacción del Programa Nacional de España en el Fondo De Asilo, Migración e Integración para el periodo 2021-2027’, 2021, available at:, 39.

[16] Juzgados de Instruccion Números 6, 19 y 20 de Madrid (En Funciones de Control del Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros de Madrid), Expediente Gubernativo, 2022, available at:; Siglo XXI, ‘Los Juzgados de Control del CIE de Aluche acuerdan conjuntamente medidas para reforzar las garantías de los internos’, 13 May 2022, available at:; La Vanguardia, ‘Juzgados de control del CIE acuerdan un protocolo de tramitación de denuncias’, 17 May 2022, available at:

[17] Europapress, ‘ONG defensoras de derechos de migrantes piden a CIE de toda España “buenas prácticas” como las acordadas en el de Aluche’, 17 May 2022, available at:

[18] El Diario, ‘Migrantes con órdenes de devolución ‘caducadas’ son retenidos en el CIE de Gran Canaria para su expulsión’, 9 May 2022, available at:

[19] Defensor del Pueblo, Informe Anual 2021 – Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención, May 2022, p. 66, available at:

[20] Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA), ‘APDHA Campo de Gibraltar cuestiona la necesidad del CIE, que el pasado año expulsó a ocho personas’, 17 May 2022, available at:

[21] Europapress, ‘Iniciativas sobre asentamientos, un Plan de Acogida Autonómico y cierre de los CIE, propuestas de Andalucía Acoge el 19J’, 23 May 2022, available at:; Andalucía Acoge, ‘Propuestas políticas. Elecciones Autonómicas Andalucía 2022’, 23 May 2022, available at:

[22] Irídia, ‘Nuevas vulneraciones de derechos humanos a las personas migrantes en Canarias’, May 2022, available at:

[23] Europapress, ‘El Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes denuncia que los CIE son “territorio hostil” y pide su “cierre definitivo”’, 6 June 2022, available at:

[24] Andalucía Información, ‘’CIES no’ convoca para este sábado una concentración contra el CIE de Algeciras’, 3 June 2022, available at:

[25] Diario Area, ‘Así están las obras del nuevo CIE de Algeciras, que acogerá a 500 inmigrantes’, 15 March 2023, available at:

[26] Público, ‘El Gobierno deporta de Canarias a Marruecos a un migrante marfileño pese a una orden judicial que lo impedía’, 9 September 2022, available at:; El Diario, ‘Dos organizaciones denuncian la deportación de un marfileño a Marruecos desde Gran Canaria’, 9 September 2022, available at:

[27] La Opinión de Murcia, ‘Concluyen las obras del CIE de Murcia: tendrá un salón comunitario, una sala de rezos, aseos en las celdas…’, 23 October 2022, available at:

[28] 8 Directo, ‘El Gobierno destina 112 millones de los Presupuestos Generales al tramo Algeciras-Bobadilla’, 6 October 2022, available at:

[29] ABC de Andalucía, ‘Guardias civiles piden un CIE y el apoyo de las Fuerzas Armadas ante la llegada masiva de inmigrantes’, 6 October 2022, available at:

[30] Europa Sur, ‘Nueva concentración para pedir el cierre del Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros de Algeciras’, 17 December 2022, available at:

[31] Newtral, ‘Nueve personas han muerto en los Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE) desde 2006 y cuatro de ellos por suicidio’, 30 December 2022, available at:

[32] El Español, ‘Interior gastará más de 800.000 € en remodelar el CIE de Madrid que Podemos pide cerrar’, 5 January 2023, available at:

[33] Tele Madrid, ‘Cierra el centro de extranjería de Aluche cinco meses por obras’, 17 January 2023, available at:

[34] Europa Press, ‘Los migrantes huidos de un avión en Palma serán trasladados este miércoles a un CIE de Barcelona’, 18 January 2023, available at:

[35] Europa Press, ‘El migrante que provocó la huida de otros 21 de un avión en Palma queda en libertad al no poder ser expulsado del país’, 18.1.2023, available at:

[36] Diario de Mallorca, ‘Varios migrantes del avión patera de Son Sant Joan piden en el CIE asilo político en España’, 21 January 2023, available at:

[37] Público, ‘Denuncian la apertura por sorpresa del módulo de mujeres del CIE de Barcelona’, 21 February 2023, available at:

[38] La Vanguardia, ‘El CGPJ pide aplicar el protocolo forense a los detenidos en prisiones y CIE’, 23 February 2023, available at:

[39] Europa Press, ‘Vox quiere prohibir que las solicitudes de protección o asilo se puedan pedir desde los CIE, 17 February 23, available at:

[40] Público, ‘Encierran un mes en el CIE de València a un joven marroquí extutelado a pesar de que un juez suspendió su expulsión’, 9 March 2023, available at:; Europa Press, ‘CIEs NO denuncia el encierro durante un mes en Zapadores de un joven extutelado que tenía suspendida la expulsión’, 8 March 2023, available at:

[41] La Vanguardia, ‘Unidas Podemos denuncia en el Congreso el caso del joven extutelado que estuvo un mes encerrado en el CIE de Zapadores’, 9 March 2023, available at:

[42] El Diario, ‘Un homosexual kosovar encerrado en el CIE de Valencia, en riesgo de “tratos inhumanos” si es deportado a Serbia’, 15 March 2023, available at:

[43] Levante, ‘Ordenan la expulsión a un solicitante de asilo por su orientación sexual que no puede regresar a Kosovo’, 15 March 2023, available at:

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

[45] Court of Justice of the European Union, Case C‑568/19, Judgement 8 October 2020, available at:; El País, ‘Una sentencia europea impide a España expulsar inmigrantes solo por estar en situación irregular’, 13 November 2020, available in Spanish at:

[46] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2021. Territorio hostil. Formas diversas de hostilidad en los CIEs. Anexo de cifras’, October 2022, available at:, 10-11.

[47] Ministry of Interior, ‘Avance de solicitudes y propuestas de resolución de protección internacional: Datos provisionales acumulados entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de diciembre de 2022, available in Spanish at:

[48] El País, ‘El Constitucional ampara a un inmigrante que iba a ser devuelto a Marruecos sin la asistencia de un abogado’, 6 October 2022, available at:; Epe, ‘El Constitucional recrimina a la Policía y un juzgado que vulneraran los derechos de un migrante’, 24 October 2022, available at:

[49] Migra Studium, ‘Opaci(e)tat. Què hi està passant’. Informe CIE 2021. Centre d’Internamnet d’Etranges – Zona Franca’, December 2022, available at:

[50] Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2021. Territorio hostil. Formas diversas de hostilidad en los CIE’, September 2022, available at:; Huffington Post, ‘Radiografía de los CIE: escándalos, arbitrariedad y la negativa de la Policía a investigar’, 25 September 2022, available 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