Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 21/04/22
The last version of this report was updated in March 2021.
- Access to the territory and pushbacks: During 2021, and at the beginning of 2022, pushback practices continued to be reported. In mid-May 2021, around 8,000 migrants reached the city of Ceuta by sea, swimming for around 36 hours. One man died in the attempt, while around 4,000 people were immediately expelled. Among them were more than 2,000 unaccompanied minors. In August, the Ministry of Interior announced having started return procedures for part of them, as the result of an agreement with Morocco that agreed to the transfer of around 700 unaccompanied children to a reception facility in the Moroccan city of Tetuan. In February 2022, a judge in Ceuta ordered the Minister of Interior to return to Spain 14 children that were illegally deported to Morocco.
- Key asylum statistics: A total of 65,295 persons applied for asylum in 2021. Venezuela, Colombia, Morocco, Mali and Senegal were the top 5 nationalities of applicants. Around 64% of asylum applicants were men, while 36% were women. The recognition rate remained quite low, with only around 10% of cases being recognised international protection. It should however be highlighted that the overall recognition rate reaches almost 29% if decisions granting humanitarian protection are also taken into account. At the end of the year, 72,271 cases were still pending at first instance.
- Situation on the Canary Islands and in the Mediterranean: As regards the number of deaths in the Mediterranean, several figures have been reported. The NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) estimated that 4,404 persons died while reaching Spain in 2021, which supposes a +102,95% increase compared to 2020. Regarding the situation of migrant children, due to the inadequacy and unpreparedness of the services at the Canary Islands faced with the increasing numbers of arrivals, at the end of 2020 there were 1,076 age assessments pending to be decided.
- Climate refugees: The Spanish Congress requested the Government to acknowledge “climate refugees” as persons in need of international protection. The political party Ciudadanos submitted a proposal to the plenary session of the Congress to update the Asylum Act, with the aim of including the protection of persons fleeing their countries on grounds connected to the environmental change. No additional developments regarding the proposal are available at the time of writing.
- Treatment of Afghan evacuees: After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Spain started to evacuate Afghans who had worked with Spanish troops and aid workers. Different Spanish Autonomous Communities offered places for the reception of Afghan evacuees. After the first temporary reception phase at the Torrejón military base, the evacuees were referred to centres or apartments in the framework of the international protection reception system. Afghans applicants in Spain were required to make an asylum application through the usual channels. The Asylum Office (OAR) prioritised their first interviews for the formalisation of the application for international protection. By the end of August, the Spanish Government had transferred more than 2,200 Afghans to Spain. Around 1,700 – one-third of them under the age of 15 – applied for international protection.
- Response to the situation in Ukraine as of 19 April 2022: Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, and the EU decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, the Spanish Government started to design a more flexible and simple mechanism for providing protection to persons fleeing the country, without the necessity for them to lodge an asylum application. Contextually, the Government started elaborating a plan to provide for and speed up the process to access reception conditions, and announced the creation of around 6,000 new reception places in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities and the Municipalities. To address reception needs of persons fleeing from Ukraine, at the beginning of March 2022 the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration provided for the creation of four Emergency and Referral Centres (CREADE), managed by NGOs. One of them is located in Madrid, offers 400 places and is managed by the NGO Accem. Other two facilities located in Barcelona and Alicante are managed by the Spanish Red Cross, while the fourth is managed by the NGO CEAR in Málaga. On 9 March, the Government adopted two orders extending the temporary protection to Ukrainian nationals, persons and stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine, Ukrainians staying (regularly or irregularly) in Spain before 24 February 2022, and their family members, and detailing the procedure to grant such status. According to such orders, the decision granting temporary protection is adopted by the OAR in 24 hours from the lodging of the application. The temporary protection, as well as the residence and work permit granted, will be automatically renewed for 1 year after 1 year since the granting of the temporary protection. Up to the 21 of March, the Government granted more than 10,000 temporary protection status to persons fleeing Ukraine. In addition, the OAR has for the moment halted the decisions on those asylum applications already lodged by Ukrainian applicants with a possible negative outcome. The Spanish Bar Association committed to provide legal guidance to Ukrainian through the specialised roll on migration and asylum of the different bar associations. Different organisations and institutions (i.e. CEAR, the Bar Association of Madrid, the Minister of Interior, the Psychological Association of Madrid, etc.) published different kind of guidance materials for persons fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
- Reforming the reception system: From December 2020, EASO launched a new operation in Spain. A new operating plan has been approved for the years 2022-2023. The objective is to support Spain in a reform of its asylum reception system, for it to be in line with EU standards. One of the main goals is to increase the number of reception places in the Canary Islands. In February 2022, the Government published a proposal of a Royal Decree regulating the asylum reception system.
- Homelessness: Shortcomings in the reception system are chronical and were registered in 2021. Many facilities still registered overcrowded, and the lack of transfers from the islands and the enclaves to the mainland resulted in numerous cases of destitution and homelessness among persons seeking asylum
- Conditions in CETI: Overcrowding in the CETI in Ceuta and Melilla is a serious issue that has persisted in recent years. The poor sanitary conditions, and health services that characterise these facilities, together with their inadequacy to accommodate families and vulnerable persons, have been denounced during the years. These circumstances worsened following the outbreak of the pandemic, and were still concerning as for 2021.
- COVID-19 vaccination campaign: Various obstacles were registered regarding access to the vaccination campaign for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, generally due to linguistic barriers and lack of access to digital services. Even though the migrant population – among which also undocumented migrants – was included in the Spanish vaccination strategy, the administration often delegated to NGOs the responsibility in terms of information provision and facilitation in accessing the campaign.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Developments on CIE: The country currently counts with 7 CIEs, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior (Detention Centres for Foreigners – Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIE). The Government announced its decision to renovate the former prison of La Piñera in Algeciras, for it to be converted in a CIE. Preliminary works started in May, despite the complaints from the Coordinator of the campaign CIEsNO. The estimated cost of the reform is of €737,620.
- Detention conditions: The Spanish Ombudsman expressed concern over the conditions at facilities where migrants are deprived of liberty. At the Centres for Temporary Attention for Foreigners (Centros de Atención Temporal de Extranjeros, CATE) deficiencies relate to overcrowding, the presence of mothers with children and of sick people, and insufficient guarantees to access asylum. Concerning CIEs, recommendations recurring in several centres relate to the availability of medical care, interpretation, legal and social assistance, possibility to communicate with lawyers, access by NGOs, video surveillance and the registration of the use of coercive measures.
- Detention of vulnerable applicants: While detention of vulnerable asylum seekers is not allowed by national law, in practice several exceptions have been reported concerning unaccompanied children and victims of trafficking.
Content of international protection
- Housing: Regarding access to housing, several reports pointed to the obstacles that third-country nationals (i.e. including migrants, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection) face in accessing housing and renting apartments, and brought to light systematic problems in the real estate-sector.
- Access to education: As in previous years, children of migrants, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection continue to face obstacles in accessing education. Due to the particular issues that were registered in Melilla, the Spanish Ombudsman requested the Ministry of Education to ensure that no child residing in the city, independently of his/her origin, would be excluded from education. At the beginning of the new academic course in September 2021, 160 children – most of them born in Melilla by Moroccan parents – who could not demonstrate their residence in the enclave, obtained the access to schooling.
 It should be noted that Regulation 2021/2023 entered into force on 19 January 2022, transforming EASO into the EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA).