Article 30(1) of the Asylum Act provides that if they lack financial means, “applicants for international protection will be provided a shelter and social services in order to ensure the satisfaction of their basic needs in dignified conditions”. The system has an integral character, which assists the applicant / beneficiary from the time of the submission of the application for asylum until the completion of the integration process.
Right to reception in different procedures
Material reception conditions under national legislation on asylum are the same for every asylum seeker, no matter the profile of the applicant nor the type of asylum procedure. According to the reception handbook, the reception system is independent from the evolution or the duration of the asylum procedure and the possible grant of international protection, as it foresees an 18-month period of accommodation, assistance and financial support in the same province where the asylum claim was lodged (apart from a few exceptions). This can reach a maximum of 24 months for vulnerable cases (see Special Reception Needs).
For applicants under an outgoing Dublin procedure, reception conditions are provided until the actual transfer to another Member State. Reception is offered for no longer than one month after the notification of the inadmissibility decision, subject to a possible extension.
It must be highlighted that all the process and foreseen services are based on the applicant’s inclusion within official asylum reception places, which give access to all other services provided. This means that applicants who can afford or decide to provide themselves with independent accommodation are in practice cut off the system, and have no guaranteed access to financial support and assistance foreseen in reception centres. Also, this requirement is applied to people who arrive in Spain from the Moroccan border, who are obliged to be hosted within the Ceuta and Melilla’s Migrant Temporary Stay Centres (CETI) in order to be transferred to the Spanish peninsula – to which they are otherwise not legally entitled – and to access the official reception system. Thus, persons applying for asylum in Ceuta and Melilla start benefitting the full services provided within the reception system only when transferred to mainland, but not during their stay in the CETI. The same issue occurred initially on the Canary Islands, where reception facilities were initially managed under the programme of humanitarian assistance to migrants.
Shortcoming and delays in accessing the reception system have been reported during 2021.
In a thematic report on the situation in the Canary Islands published in March 2021, the Spanish Ombudsman highlighted the necessity to swiftly create permanent reception facilities, in order to avoid unpreparedness and providing responses only applicable in the short run.
A policy note published by ECRE in July 2021, reports how the Spanish asylum system suffers from a chronic shortage of places, and recommends “to significantly expand the primary reception system, preserving the current model of small housing units in communities, and ensuring uniform, high quality services provided thanks to the involvement/participation of civil society”.
The saturation of asylum reception places, especially during the 1st phase of the asylum reception system, has been also reported by the Forum for the Integration of Migrants, together with the shortage of specific places for applicants with special needs, such as mental health, addictions, and dual pathology.
A report published by Amnesty International states that, the general lacks concerning the asylum reception system worsened in the Canary Islands, and that in 2020 migrants and refugees faced shameful living conditions, as well as many obstacles to access international protection.
Asylum seekers returned to Spain under the Dublin Regulation continue to face difficulties in accessing reception since 2018. Following judgments of the TSJ of Madrid, the DGIAH issued instructions in January 2019 to ensure that asylum seekers returned under the Dublin Regulation are guaranteed access to reception (see Dublin). The Reception Handbook was amended accordingly. Despite that, in June 2019 the Red Solidaria de Acogida, Parroquia San Carlos Borromeo and Coordinadora de Barrios issued a common statement, indicating that they were supporting some asylum seekers (including children and a pregnant woman) returned to Spain under the Dublin regulation, which were denied reception by the OAR.
The assessment of resources
The latest publicly available Reception Handbook from 2020 specifies that the lack of sufficient resources is one of the requirements for receiving reception conditions. At any stage of the reception phase, asylum seekers have the obligation to declare the incomes they receive. Only actual incomes are verified, while savings are not, because it is expected that asylum seekers applying for reception conditions do not have sufficient economic resources to provide to their subsistence.
Three-phase approach to reception
The reception system is divided into three main phases, which the asylum seeker follows even if he or she obtains international protection in the meantime. The three phases are as follows:
- “Assessment and referral phase” (Fase previa de evaluación y derivación, E. Y D.): Since 2015, this phase is officially part of the reception system. Persons who want to apply for asylum are provided with the information they need on the whole process and their basic necessities are covered until their referral to the first asylum reception phase;
- “Reception phase” (Fase de acogida) or “first phase”: applicants are provided with accommodation within: (a) a Refugee Reception Centre (Centro de Acogida a Refugiados, CAR) ; (b) or NGO-run reception facilities located all over the Spanish territory; or (c) reception facilities under the humanitarian assistance system (acogida para la Atención Humanitaria de personas inmigrantes). More details are provided in Types of Accommodation. During these months of temporary reception, applicants receive basic cultural orientation, language and job training which aim to facilitate their integration within the Spanish society;
- “Preparation for autonomy phase” (Fase de preparación para la autonomía) or “second phase”: applicants move out of reception centres and receive financial support and coverage of basic expenses to start their ‘normal’ life. Intensive language courses and access to employability programmes are offered at this stage. It is also possible to offer the person financial support for certain expenses (ayudas puntuales) such as health, education, training, birth.
The first and second reception phases have a total duration of 18 months, subject to a prolongation to 24 months for vulnerable persons. Accommodation during the “first phase” is provided for 6 months, subject to a 3-month prolongation for vulnerable persons. The EYD phase lasts up to 30 days and is not included in the calculation of that time limit. In 2018, however, the increase in asylum applications has caused longer waiting periods reaching up to 4 months in the EYD phase in hotels. During 2019, efforts have been made to shorten the time of waiting, which reached 1 month on average. This being said, some cases have been reported in summer 2019 where applicants had to wait up to 2-3 months.
In January 2021, the SEM issued a new Instruction regarding the access to the reception system. The aim is to adapt the duration of stay in the first phase to the duration of the asylum procedure, considering that in practice the asylum procedure usually exceeds the 6 months’ time limit provided by the Asylum Law. It also aims to foster the integration of those who have already been granted international protection, or those arriving to Spain with a protection status. As specified by the Instruction, it is in line with EUAA’s recommendations to give priority to support in kind, instead of monetary support, to asylum seekers and refugees. Thus, according to the Instruction, persons accessing the asylum reception system starting from 1 January 2021 can access the second phase only if they have been granted, or if they will be granted, international protection. The other asylum applicants whose asylum procedure is pending will need to complete the full itinerary in the first phase. It remains to be seen how the instruction will be implemented in practice and whether it will actually address the shortcomings in accessing the asylum reception system and foster integration of beneficiaries of international protection.
Since the 2015 increase of available places for refugees’ reception, the Spanish government has reformed the system regarding financing for NGOs service providers for asylum seekers and refugees. On April 2022, the asylum reception system counted 10 organisations:
- Cruz Roja;
- Red Acoge;
- Fundación Cepaim;
- Adoratrices Esclavas;
- Fundación La Merced Migraciones.
It has to be noted that such list can change often, as NGOs can enter or exit from the asylum reception system according to the funding available, to the decision taken by the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, to the individual decision to be part of the system, etc. For the same reasons, the number of available places can vary accordingly. In addition, the MISSM does not offer public information neither the list of the NGOs involved, nor the number of places within the asylum reception system. In April 2022, such system counted around 10,000 places.
It should be noted that, in December 2020, EASO launched a new operation plan aiming to support the Spanish authorities in developing and implementing a new model for the reception of asylum seekers. The Operating Plan follows a Joint Rapid Needs Assessment (JRNA) carried out by EASO and the Spanish Ministry for Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, between mid-September and the end of October 2020. At the beginning of 2021, EASO carried out a needs’ assessment on the Canary Islands with the aim of quickly start implementing effective reception support.
Following an additional mission conducted in May 2021, EASO’s Executive Director acknowledged Spain’s commitment to reform its asylum reception system in line with EU standard. To support the country in achieving this objective, the EU Agency will provide support in reforming the reception system and in in improving the reception capacity in the Canary Islands, it will assist in activities such as information provision, and will work on capacity building directed at reception personnel. Throughout 2021, EASO deployed a total of 24 different experts in Spain, half of which were Member State experts. This included 6 architects and engineers, 3 resettlement experts, 2 intermediate asylum and reception programme and project management experts, 2 operation officers and 2 organisational change experts, followed by other monitoring, legal and administrative staff (e.g. monitoring officer, intermediate legal expert, administrative assistants, etc.). As of 13 December 2021, there were still 15 EASO experts present in Spain.
As mentioned in the section Access to the territory and registration, UNHCR also established a team dedicated to work on the Canary Islands, and focusing on the provision of support to the authorities in the early identification of the international protection needs of migrants arriving by boat and in fostering the access to the asylum procedure of those persons in need of international protection.
As previously stated, IOM also started its operations in the Canary Islands at the beginning of 2021, concretely in Tenerife, where the organisation manages a facility with 1,100 reception places (reduced to 1,054 due to the necessity to assure anti Covid19 measures). With a staff of 53 employers, IOM provides for humanitarian reception places and direct assistance to migrants reaching the archipelago. The work includes also legal counselling, including on international protection, as well as identification of vulnerabilities and follow-up of protection needs.
 Foro para la Integración Social de los Inmigrantes, ‘Situación de las personas migrantes y refugiadas en España. Informe anual 2020. Efectos del estado de alarma declarado en el marco de la pandemia de COVID-19’, November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3qpVn5D.
 DGIAH, Instrucción DGIAH 2018/12/19 por la que se modifica el manual de gestión del sistema de acogida para solicitantes y beneficiarios de protección internacional en lo relativo al reingreso en el sistema de acogida de personas devueltas a España en aplicacion del Reglamento Dublín, 20 December 2018, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2GA9QGy.
 DGIAH, Reception Handbook, June 2020, F.1., 15.
 Ibid, J., pp. 19 and ss.
 Real Decreto 816/2015, de 11 de septiembre, por el que se regula la concesión directa de una subvención con carácter excepcional y por razones humanitarias para la ampliación extraordinaria de los recursos del sistema de acogida e integración de solicitantes y beneficiarios de protección internacional.
 DGIAH, Reception Handbook, June 2020, J.1.1., 20.
 Information provided by Accem’s reception service on April 2022.
 Information provided by EUAA, 28 February 2022.
 Information provided by the IOM on 4 March 2022.