Alternatives to detention


Country Report: Alternatives to detention Last updated: 10/07/24


There are no provisions under Spanish law regarding alternatives to detention for asylum seekers; meaning applicants in CIE, penitentiary centres or ad hoc spaces at borders.

Under the Aliens Act,[1] the only cautionary alternative measures that can be taken concern foreigners that are subject to a disciplinary proceeding, under which removal could be proposed, and they are the following:

  • Periodic presentation to the competent authorities;
  • Compulsory residence in a particular place;
  • Withdrawal of passport or proof of nationality;
  • Precautionary detention, requested by the administrative authority or its agents, for a maximum period of 72 hours prior to the request for detention;
  • Preventive detention, before a judicial authorisation in detention centres;
  • Any other injunction that the judge considers appropriate and sufficient.

These alternatives are not applied in practice. As confirmed by the Global detention Project, there are long-standing concerns that authorities routinely fail to consider all criteria before imposing detention measures.[2]

Throughout 2020, many stakeholders called on the Government for the implementation of alternatives to migration detention, in particular following the closure of CIEs from March to September 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain.[3] However, a report published by Caritas in December 2020 demonstrates that alternatives to detention are not applied by the police nor by judges in Spain.[4]

The same calls were made in 2021. In March, the Coordinator of the Platform “CIEs NO” called for the closure of the CIE in Algeciras, remarking that the closure of such facilities during the first phase of the pandemic did not produce any disorder nor relevant issue hindering social coexistence.[5] In a roundtable organised by the Jesuit Migrant Service in April 2021, the organisation stated that the programs funded by the public administration and run by NGOs are the real alternative to detention in Spain, as they demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the CIEs were closed and migrants were referred to such programs.[6] The annual report on detention published by the Jesuit Migrants Service also highlights that the existence of CIEs is not necessary, has shown by their 5 months-closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.[7]  In the CEAR annual report on 2022, the organisation called for the use of alternative measures to detention as foreseen in the Immigration Law.[8]





[1] Article 61 Aliens Act.

[2] Global Detention Project, Country report Spain, May 2020, available at:

[3] Europapress, ‘CEAR asegura que se ha demostrado “existen alternativas” a los CIE tras su cierre por el Covid-19’, 19 June 2020, available in Spanish at:; Alfa y Omega, ‘Es hora de buscar alternativas a los CIE’, 21 October 2020, available in Spanish at:;   Revista Ecclesia, ‘Marifrán Sánchez: «Hay que buscar vías alternativas a los CIE», 24 September 2020, available in Spanish at:

[4] Cáritas, “Invisibles en la última frontera, Manual jurídico para la defensa de los extranjeros en los centros de internamiento”, December 2020, available in Spanish at:, 26.

[5] Europa Sur, ‘La Coordinadora CIEs No exige una vez más el cierre del centro de Algeciras’, 27 March 2021, available in Spanish at:

[6] Cope, El Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes defiende los programas de ayuda humanitaria como alternativa a los CIE, 14 April 2021, available in Spanish at:

[7] Info Libre, ‘La pandemia pone en evidencia el modelo de los CIE: estuvieron cerrados cinco meses y “España sobrevivió”’, 4 June 2021, available in Spanish at:; Servicio Jesuita a Maigrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2020 «Razón jurídica y sinrazón política»’, 4 June 2021, available in Spanish at:; Público, ‘Es posible vivir sin CIE’, 17 June 2021, available in Spanish at:

[8] CEAR, ‘INFORME 2022: Las personas refugiadas en España y Europa’, June 2022, available in Spanish at:, 136.

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