Detention of vulnerable applicants


Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 25/03/21


Children shall not be detained as a rule,[1] but the Aliens Act foresees the possibility of detaining families with children.[2]

Although detention of asylum seekers or vulnerable categories is not explicitly allowed by law, in practice several exceptions have been reported concerning unaccompanied children and victims of trafficking. This is due to the lack of identification of the minor age of the person, or of his or her status of victim of trafficking. For example, 48 minors were officially identified as such while in detention in 2017.[3], while in 2018 they were 89.[4]The Jesuit Refugee Service identified at least 59 possible children in CIEs in 2019, most of them at the CIE of Barcelona.[5] The organisation denounced in 2020 the persistent problem of a lack of identification of unaccompanied children when already detained at CIEs, and the inadequate treatment of persons with health problems.[6]

In January 2020, the Platform ‘CIEs No’ reported that the case of a 16-years-old Algerian child who remained detained in the CIE in Valencia, despite the fact that he could prove his minority. The judge considered, however, that his identification documents, which had been sent by his family, were not valid as they were severely damaged (i.e. split in half).[7]

Nonetheless, when they are identified as minors or victims while they are in detention, they are released and handled to the competent protection systems. In addition, applicants such as pregnant women or persons requiring assistance may be exempted from the border procedure and admitted to the territory in specific cases.


[1] Article 62(4) Aliens Act.

[2]  Article 62-bis(1)(i) Aliens Act. The part of this provision, referring to the need for CIE to guarantee family unity, has been set aside by the Supreme Court: Tribunal Supremo, Application 373/2014, 10 February 2015.

[3]  Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Sufrimiento Inútil – Informe CIE 2017, June 2018, available in Spanish at:, 5.

[4] El Mundo, ‘Interior admite que se internó a 89 menores extranjeros en los CIE, pese a estar prohibido por la ley’, 7 June 2019, available in Spanish at:

[5]Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2019. Diez años mirando a otro lado’, December 2020, available in Spanish at:, 17.

[6]Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, ‘Informe CIE 2019. Diez años mirando al otro lado’, December 2020, available in Spanish at:, 4.

[7] El Salto Diario, ‘Un menor permanece ingresado en el CIE de València a pesar de probar que tiene 16 años’, 18 February 2020, 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