In the Spanish reception system, efforts are made to place asylum seekers in the reception place which best fits their profile and needs depending on their age, sex, household, nationality, existence of family networks, maintenance, etc. A case by case assessment is made between OAR and the relevant NGO in charge of the reception centres and, after assessing the availability of reception spaces and the individual characteristics of the applicant, the person is placed in the place that responds to his or her needs. As asylum seekers’ placement is made on case by case basis, there is an ongoing monitoring mechanism which takes into consideration the response to reception needs of each person concerning the mentioned profiles.
In addition, based on vulnerability factors referred to under the Asylum Act, most vulnerable profiles are allowed to longer reception compared to the normal 18-month period. For vulnerable groups, reception under the first phase can last 9 months as well as an additional 15 months under the second phase, thus reaching a total of 24 months of reception.
Nonetheless, available resources have a generalised approach and do not cover the needs presented by the most vulnerable asylum applicants, who are referred to external and more specialised services in case they need them. The Spanish reception system in fact does not guarantee specialised reception places addressed to asylum applicants such as victims of trafficking, victims of torture, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children or persons with mental disorders. As mentioned in Health care, some NGOs offer receptions facilities and services for asylum seekers with health mental problems. In addition, some NGOs have specific places in their reception facilities specifically addressed to trafficked women.
Reception places for asylum-seeking victims of trafficking are very few, managed by Adoratrices – Proyecto Esperanza, APRAMP association and Diaconia. In July 2020, different NGOs part of the Network against Trafficking in Andalucía (Red Antena Sur contra la Trata) called for the creation of multidisciplinary teams to welcome migrants arriving by boat to the Spanish coasts, in order to detect victims of trafficking. They also called for the adoption of a comprehensive law addressing trafficking, and warned against the increased vulnerability of victims of trafficking following the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, UNHCR raised concerns over the risk of refugees becoming victims of trafficking as a result of COVID-19.
The generalised approach of the Spanish reception system has been criticised by several organisations in recent years, as it fails to provide adequate needs to the most vulnerable. The Spanish Ombudsman expressed its concerns regarding the serious deficiencies in the humanitarian assistance programmes for migrants. In its 2019 Annual Report, the body also reiterates its concerns, already expressed in a thematic report of 2016, about the deficiencies of the asylum reception system that should be addressed urgently in a comprehensive manner. Amnesty International also called on the Spanish Government for a reception system in line with international human rights standards, and also for a flexible system able to adapt to the needs of asylum seekers.
Children and unaccompanied minors
There are no specialised resources for unaccompanied asylum seeking-children, and they are thus hosted in general centres for unaccompanied children or left destitute. The Committee on the Rights of the Child issued its Observations on Spain in 2018, where it expressed serious concerns about the reception of unaccompanied children. In particular, the Committee raised concerns about the deficiencies of the facilities and the overcrowding of some centres, as well as the cases of ill-treatment of children in reception centres. The Committee was also concerned about the reports of reclusion of children in isolation, erroneous medical diagnosis and wrong medical treatments, as well as the lack of oversight and reporting mechanisms to the authorities. The issue of homelessness of unaccompanied children when they reach their majority has also been reported as a concern in 2020, including the negative impact this has on their mental health (see also Legal representation of unaccompanied children).
Due to the conditions of the Melilla’s Centre of Protection of Minors in which they should live because they are under the administration’s custody, children prefer living on the city’s streets and try to reach the Spanish Peninsula hiding in transport. This situation concerned more than 100 children in 2017 and between 50 and 100 children in 2018. In December 2019, 93 children were in this situation, while in February 2020 they were 35. Full year figures for 2020 were not available at the time of writing.
In December 2019, the Treasury Office of the Government of Melilla submitted a report to the Public prosecutor for Children. The report refers to the “humanitarian catastrophe” resulting from the living conditions in the centre La Purísima, which accommodates unaccompanied children in Melilla. The report states that the conditions of the centers violate the children’s dignity and ignore their basic needs; thus putting their life at risk. However, instead of issuing a new call for the management of the centre, the Government of the City of Melilla decided in January 2020 to renew the contract with the current management of the centre for another year. This means that the centre will continue to host more than 800 children although it has a maximum capacity of 350 places.
The situation did not improve throughout the year 2020. Overcrowding, inadequate living conditions and other relevant problems persisted. In March 2020, some pictures indicating overcrowding and inhuman conditions of the centre leaked, showing almost 900 unaccompanied children in a facility with a capacity of 350 places. The Ombudsman continued to reiterate his concerns about the reception of unaccompanied children in Melilla at the La Purísima centre  Overcrowding (exceeding three times the capacity of the centre), children sleeping on mattresses on the ground, and rooms with no ventilation were also issues reported at that centre. In January 2020, the Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalía General del Estado) called on the Autonomous Communities, which are in charge of the protection of unaccompanied children, to agree on the distribution of unaccompanied children arriving to Andalucía, Ceuta and Melilla; i.e. the Spanish regions recording the highest number of arrivals. In September 2020, the 68 organisations forming the Childhood Platform (Plataforma de Infancia) asked for the immediate transfer of 143 children crowded at the CETI of Melilla, denouncing the poor living conditions and the issues resulting from overcrowding (i.e. 1,375 persons were accommodated there at that time, for a total capacity of 782 places). The Platform further denounced the lack of education and leisure activities children, in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The situation of unaccompanied children in the Canary Islands raised concern during 2020 and the beginning of 2021, counting more than 2,000 children not receiving adequate assistance and protection.
Another issue denounced in 2020 relates to the separation of children from their parents. This was carried out in the practice by the Public Prosecutor following boat arrivals at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). Children were separated from their parents for up to two months in order carry out DNA tests, which was heavily criticised. During this time, children are hosted in centres for unaccompanied migrant children, while their parents are in centres for adults. Due to the evident violations of children rights, the Superior Public Prosecutor of the Canary Islands asked for clarifications on the protocol in place at Las Palmas, while the Spanish Ombudsman opened an investigation on the issue, after receiving two complaints.
In 2020, a project of an organic law on the protection of children against violence was under parliamentary process. In light of that, different NGOs working with children asked to reinforce the protection of children under the administration’s guardianship system and during their stay in reception centres.This call is made in light of the situation of mistreatment and degrading treatment suffered by unaccompanied migrant children in the reception centres. This issue has been denounced for years and was acknowledged by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as a serious concern in 2018.
In a report published in March 2021 specifically on the situation in the Canary Islands, the Spanish Ombudsman indicated that the lack of sufficient material and personal resources does not allow to provide unaccompanied children proper access to education, health assistance, and basic social services in the same conditions as Spanish children.
Discrimination and hate crime
Discrimination and hate crimes against migrants and refugees continued to be an increasing concern in 2020. In its 2019 Annual Report on Hate Crime, published in July 2020, the Ministry of Interior indicated an increase of 11,6 % of hate crimes in 2019 compared to 2018. 76.7% of these crimes are motivated by racism and xenophobia.
Several developments relating to discrimination and hate crime were reported throughout 2020:
- In July 2020, the Public Prosecutor of Málaga asked the closure of a digital newspaper for inciting hate against migrants by accusing Muslims of being terrorists;
- In September 2020, the Public Prosecutor Office ordered the issuance of residence permits to undocumented migrants victim of racial discrimination or homophobia, in order to avoid the risk of expulsion.
- In June 2020 the Parliament of Cataluña asked the Government to adopt measures to eradicate racist police actions, as well as to close CIEs and to regularise all undocumented migrants.
- A report published by the NGO Rights International Spain denounced racism and xenophobia as an issue during the declaration of the Sate of Alarm in Spain, documenting more than 70 racist incidents and discrimination by authorities (i.e. police brutality, ethnic profiling by police, etc.). During the State of Alarm, the NGO Accem assisted victims of racial discrimination through phone and WhatsApp consultations.
- In December 2020, the movement #RegularizaciónYa gathered in Valencia to ask for the regularisation of undocumented migrants because of necropolitics and institutional racism.
- The same month different organisations such as the NGO CEAR and UNHCR launched the campaign “#viralizaCUIDARnos”, with the aim of countering hate messages in social media.
- The discrimination and racism faced by migrants and refugees in renting flats has also been reported during 2020.
- At the beginning of 2021, the Director of the National Police announced that facial recognition tools will be installed at its borders during the year.
A study published by the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination (Consejo para la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial o Étnica) on the perception of racial discrimination by its potential victims in 2020 underlines the existing institutional discrimination in multiple contexts, and the high level of exclusion existing in Spain. The report also refers the discrimination that victims face in accessing basic rights and services, such as education or health services, as well as discrimination by police.
The significant increase in arrivals to the Canary Islands has also contributed the rise of racist incidents. In the south of Gran Canaria, migrants were threatened with a machete. The Moroccan Association for the Integration of Migrants (Asociación Marroquí para la Integración de los Inmigrantes) also expressed concerns on the growing tension on the Canary Islands. Criminalisation and hate messages against migrants are spreading, and no measures are adopted to avoid such incidents. The NGO called for the transfer of migrants to the mainland. Similarly, the NGO Fundación Cruz Blanca denounced the aggression of 7 Moroccan men aged between 18 and 45 years-old within 5 days after their arrival in Las Palmas. In different parts of the archipelagos neighbours and municipalities started taking action against racism (i.e. meeting with NGOs and institutions in order to raise awareness on migration and fostering integration). The Public Prosecutor of Gran Canarias also started to investigate different messages used by certain groups to organise assaults against migrants.
Unaccompanied children also continued to face serious discrimination in Spain and to be criminalised during the year 2020. A report published in July 2020 by the Fundación Raíces collected the testimony of 55 unaccompanied children and denounces the physical and psychological assaults they have suffered under the public protection system by reception staff, the police and the security personnel. Three videos disseminated during July 2020 showed the harassment and assaults suffered by unaccompanied children while in reception facilities in Madrid. In October 2020, neo-Nazis groups organised a protest in San Blas, Madrid, including in front of an apartment accommodating unaccompanied migrant children. The protest was encouraged by the right-wing party Vox. The Network for Migration and Support to Refugees (Red de Inmigración y Ayuda al Refugiado) lodged a complaint at the Public Prosecutor Office to investigate this hate crime. The Fundation Roma Secretariat (Fundación Secretariado Gitano) also warned about the stigma suffered by Roma migrant children at schools.
The climate of hate seems to be driven by certain political parties. In January 2019, the People’s Party (Partido Popular) reinitiated a parliamentary initiative aiming at considering unaccompanied children economic migrants and thus calling for their expulsion. In December 2020, the right-wing party Vox used the escape of an unaccompanied child from a protection centre in Almería as an excuse to disseminate hate on migrants and pointing to their responsibility in the spread of COVID-19.
The Spanish Ombudsman announced its intention to investigate whether the right-wing party Vox was responsible for committing a hate crime against unaccompanied children. Similarly, in November 2019 the Public Prosecutor of Sevilla launched an investigation against the president of Vox Madrid for committing a hate crime, as she had made statements inciting violence against unaccompanied children hosted in a centre of the city. In September 2020, the Public Prosecutor Office of Madrid warned against the campaign of physical and virtual harassment faced by unaccompanied migrant children, and how this climate has been encouraged by public declarations of certain political groups. Moreover, in February 2021, the Public Prosecutor denounced the hate crime advocated by a neo-Nazi group through social networks against some unaccompanied migrant children hosted in a reception facility in Madrid.
To tackle hate and negative perceptions against unaccompanied migrant children, the NGO Accem released an awareness-raising video titled ‘Treat me as a child’ (‘Que me traten como un niño’) in 2019. In addition, Save the Children launched the initiative ‘#YoSíTeQuiero’ (‘#Me, yes, I love you’), with the aim of fostering a realistic and positive communication on the issue. In 2020, the association Ex-menas formed by former unaccompanied migrant children of Madrid launched a video to raise awareness on their situation, inter alia to denounce the discrimination they face and to foster integration.
Also important to note is the intention of the Minister of Interior to examine the possibility of changing the Spanish term usually employed to refer to unaccompanied minors (menor extranjero no acompañado – MENA) with a more equal and gendered terminology, inter alia with the aim to also include girls and adolescents (Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes Migrantes No Acompañados – NNAMNA). The NGO Save the Children launched a campaign (“MENAS es un stigma. Son niños y niñas solos”) to raise awareness on the stigmatisation stemming from the term “MENA” and to recall that they are children arriving alone to Spain. In November 2019 different organisations such as UNICEF, Save the Children, Fundación Raíces and Plataforma de Infancia denounced the discrimination faced by unaccompanied children in cooperation with the Spanish General Bar Council. In October 2020, a motion presented by the socialist party PSOE establishing the change in legislation of the word MENA with “unaccompanied boys, girls and adolescents” was approved.
Regarding the reception conditions of the Hortaleza centre in Madrid, in January 2020 the Spanish Ombudsman defined the situation of the facility as ‘critic’ and that it ‘deteriorates considerably’, especially in relation to overcrowding, the lack of an internal protocol on how to manage assaults and the lack of appropriate measures by the competent authority.
Discrimination and incidents against LGBTQI+ asylum seekers have also been reported during 2020. For example, a trans woman in Benidorm (Comunitat Valenciana) was humiliated, insulted and threatened by two municipal police officers. As a consequence, she had to leave the city and move to a safer place as she feared for her integrity. The Government denounced the incidents to the Public Prosecutor Office. Moreover, in December 2020, a LGBTQI + asylum seeker reported a homophobic aggression in Madrid.
The NGO Accem expressed concerns about the multiple obstacle and the discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in Spain, affecting in particular trans women. The NGO Kifkif further called for public policies that effectively allow to overcome xenophobia and the multiple discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ refuges who are HIV positive.
As regards reception of LGBTQI+ asylum seeker, a report published by Accem in 2018 had already underlined the necessity to make the reception system more flexible, in order to better respond to their specific needs. In addition, the report recommended the creation of safe environments which guarantee the free expression of asylum seekers’ identity and the necessity to tackle the discrimination that they suffer in different contexts, especially in accessing health services and housing.
In June 2020, the National federation of lesbians Gays, Trans and Bisexuals (Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexules – FELGTB) urged the Government to adopt specific protocols to assist LGBTQI+ persons in the reception system and the international protection procedure. In November 2020, the first reception facility for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers was opened by the NGO Kifkif with 20 places. The organisation also called for the creation of a law on trans persons, with a migrant and intercultural perspective. In January 2021, around 500 women and 80 feminist groups further signed a manifesto for the gender self- determination and for the rights of trans persons. At the beginning of 2021, the NGO Kifkif raised concerns about the increase HIV positive cases among LGTBIQI+ refugees, especially trans women. The National Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans and Bisexuals (Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales – FELGTB) called UN Special Rapporteurs and Experts to provide recommendations to the the Spanish Government on how to guarantee the rights of trans persons, especially regarding their self-determination.
 DGIAH, Reception Handbook, November 2018, A, p. 6.
 DGIAH, Reception Handbook, November 2018, G.2 (p. 22), G.3 (p. 24).
 DGIAH, Reception Handbook, November 2018, F.F.1 and F.F.5, pp. 15 and 17.
 Asociación Pro derechos Humanos de Andalucía, El Defensor del Pueblo advierte “significativas carencias” en el diseño de los programas de acogida humanitaria, 7 August 2020, available in Spanish vat: https://bit.ly/2LUNvrI.
 Europapress, ‘Amnistía Internacional exige un sistema de acogida en España que cumpla con los estándares internacionales de DDHH’, 19 January 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3ojHce5.
 Público, ‘Más de 800 menores migrantes vivirán hacinados otro año mientras Melilla redefine el contrato de su centro de acogida’, 15 January 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/crc1ANR.
 Pikara Magazine, ‘Voluntarias de Melilla denuncian el hacinamiento de unos 900 menores en el centro La Purísima’, 11 March 2020, available at: https://cutt.ly/BtUHM86; El País, ‘600 chavales hacinados en el principal centro de menores inmigrantes de Melilla’, 10 March 2020, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/6tUH9cf.
 Europapress, ‘Una protesta exige la regularización de las personas migrantes “ante la necropolítica y el racismo institucional”’, 19 December 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3sRPH3A.
 Provivienda,¿Se alquila? Racismo y xenofobia en el mercado del alquiler, October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/36aI7HF; La Gaceta de Salamanca, ¿Racismo en el alquiler de pisos? “Los dueños no quieren extranjeros”, 21 August 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3pg7uzt.
 Consejo para la Eliminación de la Discriminación Racial o Étnica, ‘Estudio sobre la percepción de la discriminación por origen racial o étnico por parte de sus potenciales víctimas en 2020, December 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3qwAcNd.
 Fundación Cruz Blanca, Fundación Cruz Blanca denuncia agresiones sufridas por personas migrantes en el barrio de el Lasso, Las Palmas, 27 January 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3ptxPdg.
 El Diario, ‘La Fiscalía de Sevilla investiga a Rocío Monasterio por presunto delito de odio a menores extranjeros no acompañados’, 18 November 2019, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/Yrc9L64.
 El País, Organizaciones de la infancia piden a la Fiscalía que investigue posibles delitos de odio contra los menores inmigrantes, 14 November 2019, available in Spanish at: https://cutt.ly/Zrc0b0C.
 PSOE, Aprobada una moción del PSOE para sustituir el término MENA en la legislación por “niños, niñas y adolescentes no acompañados”, 28 October 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/39bBQgM.
 Togayther, ‘Kifkif reclama políticas públicas efectivas para superar la serofobia y la discriminación múltiple que enfrentan refugiados LGTB+ VIH positivos’, 30 November 2020, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3oigz9w.
 El Diario, ‘500 mujeres y 80 colectivos feministas firman un manifiesto a favor de la autodeterminación de género y los derechos de las personas trans,’ 20 January 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/36hgXPk; Cuarto Poder, Colectivos y activistas feministas se unen por la defensa de los derechos de las personas trans, 20 January 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/2YdRcv5.
 Togayther, ‘Kifkif alerta del incremento de casos positivos por VIH en refugiados LGTBI, especialmente entre mujeres trans migrantes’, 12 February 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/37n4r1f.
 Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales, ‘FELGTB solicita a relatores de Naciones Unidas que insten al Gobierno de España a garantizar los derechos trans‘, 5 February 2021, available in Spanish at: https://bit.ly/3qt2x6Q.