Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions


Country Report: Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions Last updated: 25/03/21


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. 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 a 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).[1]

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.[2]

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 occurs on the Canary Islands, where reception facilities are currently managed under the programme of humanitarian assistance to migrants. As of February 2021, there were still no reception facilities specifically for asylum seekers.

Shortcoming and delays in accessing the reception system have been reported during 2020. In October the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration reported that there were around 8,000 asylum seekers waiting to be assigned a reception place.[3]

A report published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) in 2020 reports that the Spanish asylum reception system has not been able to effectively respond to the increase of asylum seekers since 2018.[4] It also highlights the dynamics and problems that asylum seekers face in accessing the asylum procedure at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, due to the discriminatory practices based on skin colour as well as pushback practices.

In addition, Refugees International stressed how the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the need to improve the Spanish asylum system, recommending to the Spanish Government, inter alia, to increase the reception capacity and integration system, to improve conditions in first-reception centres in the Spanish enclaves and on the Canary Islands, as well as to increase protection and guarantees for vulnerable asylum seekers.[5] Similarly, Euromed Rights also called the EU and the Spanish Government to increase reception places on the Canary Islands in order to guarantee proper accommodation to all migrants disembarking at the archipelago and to speed up transfers to mainland.[6]

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,[7] the DGIAH issued instructions in January 2019 to ensure that asylum seekers returned under the Dublin Regulation are guaranteed access to reception.[8] 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.[9]


The assessment of resources

The Reception Handbook specifies that the lack of sufficient resources is one of the requirements for receiving reception conditions.[10] 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:[11]

  1. “Assessment and referral phase” (Fase previa de evaluación y derivación, E. Y D.): Since 2015, this phase is officially part of the reception system.[12] 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;

  1. “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;

  1. “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.[13] 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.[14] 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 EASO’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. In 2019, the reception system counted 21 organisations:

Updated information on the year 2020 and whether changes were made to the above list was not available at the time of writing of this report.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.[15] 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 the mission, the Spanish State Secretary for Migration visited EASO to further discuss EASO’s Operational plan.[16]



[1] Ibid, J.2., 21.

[2] Ibid, E., 14.

[3] El País, ‘España mantiene 8.000 solicitantes de asilo a la espera de una plaza de acogida’, 7 October 2020, available in Spanish at:

[4] Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), ‘ Informe Nacional para España NIEM 2020 sobre solicitantes y beneficiarios de protección internacional’, 26 June 2020, available in Spanish at:  

[5]  Refugees International, ‘Reform past due: Covid-19 magnifies need to improve spain’s asylum system’, 27 July 2020, available in Spanish at:

[6] Euromed Rights, The increase in arrivals of migrants in the Canary Islands highlights structural issues, 20 November 2020, available in Spanish at:

[7]  TSJ Madrid, Decision 966/2018, 7 December 2018, EDAL, available at:; Decision 913/2018, 22 November 2018, available in Spanish at:

[8]  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:

[9] ‘Comunicado de la Red Solidaria de Acogida, Parroquia San Carlos Borromeo y Coordinadora de Barrios’, 6 June 2019, available in Spanish at:

[10] DGIAH, Reception Handbook, June 2020, F.1., p. 15.

[11]  Ibid, J., pp. 19 and ss.

[12] 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.

[13]  DGIAH, Reception Handbook, June 2020, J.1.1., p. 20.

[14]  SEM, Instruction 6/2020, 4 January 2021, available in Spanish at:

[15] EASO, ‘Spain: EASO launches new operation to support reception system’, 18 December 2020, available at:

[16]  EASO, ‘Spanish State Secretary for Migration visits EASO following launch of new operation in the country’, 1 February 2021, 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