While the increase in arrivals of asylum seekers throughout 2018 and 2019 has exacerbated difficulties in accessing reception, the actual conditions in reception facilities have not deteriorated since reception capacity was increased. The problem asylum seekers face on some occasions is the long waiting time before they can be placed in accommodation facilities.
Conditions in CAR and NGO accommodation
The majority of available places for asylum seekers in Spain are in reception centres, during the first phase of reception, which lasts for a maximum of 6 months. As stressed, during the second phase they are placed in private housing, as the final aim is their autonomy within the Spanish society.
In general, there have not been reports of bad conditions of reception. In fact, there are no registered protests or strikes by applicants. Unless they are placed in private housing, asylum seekers are not able to cook by themselves during the first phase of reception, as meals are managed by the authority in charge of the centre.
Hosted applicants have access to several types of activities, which may vary from trainings or leisure programmes. In general, particular conditions or facilities within the reception centre depend on the authority managing the reception places. As the majority of centres are managed by specialised NGOs, generally the staff that works with asylum seekers during their reception is trained and specialised.
The accommodation of every asylum seeker is decided on case by case basis, in order to prevent tensions or conflicts (such as nationality or religious based potential situations), vulnerability or violence. Single women for example are usually placed in female-only apartments, while the same happens for single men. In this context, the unity of families is also respected, as family members are placed together.
The usual length of stay for asylum seekers inside the reception facilities is the maximum stay admitted, which is 18 months, extendable to 24 months for vulnerable persons. This is due to the fact that the system is divided into 3 main phases that gradually prepare the person to live autonomously in the hosting society. Following the Royal Decree adopted in September 2015, asylum seekers whose application has been rejected may remain within the reception facilities until they reach the maximum duration of their stay. In addition, it should be noted that asylum applicants must complete the first reception phase within asylum facilities in order to access the support foreseen in the second phase; the completion of the first phase is mandatory.
Conditions in CETI
In the CETI in Ceuta and Melilla, situations of overcrowding persisted in recent years, including 2019, which led asylum seekers and migrants to substandard reception conditions. At the end of August 2018, for example, the CETI in Ceuta was hosting 1,057 persons, while the one in Melilla was hosting 1,192 persons.[1
The two CETI are reception facilities that receive the most criticism from organisations and institutions that monitor migrants’ and refugees’ rights. In 2016 and 2017, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UNICEF, and the Spanish Ombudsman, published reports in which they denounced deficiencies in the conditions concerning the two centres. Similarly in 2018, different organisations and institutions kept on expressing concerns about the living conditions in such facilities. Accommodation standards have been considered inadequate and concerns about the exposure of women and children to violence and exploitation due to the continuous overcrowding have been highlighted. In light of this, the Council of Europe Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees expressed the necessity for the Spanish authorities to “ensure that CETIs in Ceuta and Melilla have the same standards in terms of living conditions, education, health care, language and training courses which asylum-seekers are entitled to and receive in mainland Spain”. A report by the Jesuit Migrants Service also stressed inadequate conditions at the CETI in Melilla, especially in cases of prolonged stays, as well as the lack of identification of vulnerabilities, of a gender and age perspective and of guaranteeing residents’ rights to privacy and family life.
Besides shortcomings due to their usual overcrowding, attention was paid to the fact that CETI do not provide satisfactory conditions for family units and overall for families with minors. In fact, there are no available places for family units, due to which families are separated and children stay with only one of their parents. In both centres, the shortage of interpreters and psychologists has also been criticised.
In July 2019 incidents were reported at the CETI in Melilla, when police services removed a Moroccan family whose asylum claim had been rejected. A witness reported the mistreatment suffered by the parents, including the pregnant wife, and the fact that the removal had been carried out in front of the children and other children living in the centre.
At the beginning of January 2020, the human rights activist José Palazón, president of the Melilla-based NGO Prodein reported, that a young man had been expelled from the CETI in Melilla for causing disorder. Residents of the centre, however, stated that the young man is suffering from mental health disorders and that the CETI did not provide him with adequate assistance. The activist added that, since the beginning of the year, different asylum seekers, mainly originating from Mali, Tunisia and Algeria were denied access to and support at the CETI. He also reported that 7 Moroccan families with 22 children have been expelled from the CETI without receiving their documentation back and were thus forced to sleep on the street. The majority of them had applied for asylum for having participated to the protests in the Rif region.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain, an extraordinary transfer to mainland from the CETI in Ceuta has been organised. In order to comply with the preventive corona measures adopted at national level, 105 Sub-Saharan and Algerian persons have been referred to the reception centres managed by NGOs in Andalucía and Castilla La Mancha.
Human Rights Watch, ‘Spain: LGBT Asylum Seekers Abused in North African Enclave’, 28 April 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2oS5jTD. See also The Guardian, ‘In limbo in Melilla: the young refugees trapped in Spain's African enclave’, 10 May 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2pyuTxb.
 Council of Europe, Report of the fact-finding mission by Ambassador Tomáš Boček, Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees, to Spain, 18-24 March 2018, SG/Inf(2018)25, 3 September 2018, para 5.1.
 Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Sacar del Laberinto. Informe Frontera Sur 2018, December 2018, 39.
 Amnesty International, Fear and Fences: Europe’s approach to keeping refugees at bay, EUR 03/2544/2015, November 2015, 23.