For the first time in its history, Spain reported that its long-term immigration detention centres–Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros–were emptied, a result of measures implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The final four detainees were released on 5-6 May from the Algeciras detention centre. The Interior Ministry had been progressively releasing detainees for the past 50 days due to the border closures, flights being suspended, and Spanish legislation prohibiting detention of over 60 days prior to deportation.
The Campaña Por el Cierre de los Centros de Internamiento para Extranjeros celebrated the release but highlighted that detainees were left without support or place of residence, and were not referred to reception centres.
As the Global Detention Project reports in its new report on Spain, published today, despite Spain’s quick and progressive response to the Covid crisis, “enormous questions remain, including what is to happen to these facilities if the crisis eventually passes, how are former detainees being cared for, and what is being done to protect the thousands of people stranded in Spain’s Moroccan enclaves, where nominally ‘open’ reception centres were placed under lockdown.” (See: https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/spain)
Temporary Stay Centres (Centros de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes, ‘CETIs’) in the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta remain open and have been placed under lockdown, effectively turning the nominally “open” centres into detention sites. On 17 April, it was reported that 1,650 persons were detained in the Melilla CETI for a total of 782 places, thus running at more than 200 percent of its capacity. Usually, periodic transfers to the peninsula would be undertaken to alleviate overcrowding, but due to the state of emergency, these have been suspended. 57 asylum seekers are also being held in Melilla in a temporary ‘shelter’ made up of tents. A complaint has been lodged before the Spanish State Attorney General by lawyers representing the asylum seekers due to the living conditions in the temporary shelter. Due to the heavy rain, the tents have now been completely flooded, leaving the beds and clothes of asylum seekers completely wet. An immediate intervention from the State Attorney General was requested and the complaint highlighted the lack of food, lack of medical care and urged the transfer to the hospital of a child with a broken ankle, as detainees are not allowed out. The complaint also reported the conditions inside the Melilla CETI including overcrowding, insufficient showers, bathrooms and hygiene products, lack of laundry facilities and hot water, meaning that the recommendations to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are not being followed.
On 27 March 2020, 13 detainees in the Ceuta CETI began a hunger strike requesting their release. One of the detainees said: “this is our response, because we are tired. We do not know for how long we will have to stay here and no-one in the centre is giving us an answer. They tell us to wait, but we cannot wait anymore.” The detainee also mentioned that in spaces of no more than 16 squared meters, up to 10 people are held.
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Spain, May 2020, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/spain
- M. Martin, “Los Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros se Vacian por Primera Vez en Tres Decadas,” El Pais, 6 May 2020, https://elpais.com/espana/2020-05-06/se-vacian-los-centros-de-internamiento-de-extranjeros-por-primera-vez-en-tres-decadas.html
- Campaña por el Cierre de los Centros de Internamiento para Extranjeros, “#LosCIEsNoSeAbren: Comunicado de la Campaña Estatal por el Cierre de los CIE y el Fin de las Deportaciones,” accessed on 14 May 2020, https://ciesno.wordpress.com/
- N. Castellano, “Denuncia Ante la Fiscalia General de Estado por las ‘Torturantes’ Condiciones de los Inmigrantes en Melilla,” Cadena SER, 14 May 2020, https://cadenaser.com/ser/2020/05/14/sociedad/1589456148_085543.html
- L. J. Varo, “El Gobierno Mantiene a Mas de 1,600 Migrantes Hacinados en el CETI de Melilla,” El Pais, 20 April 2020, https://elpais.com/espana/2020-04-19/el-gobierno-mantiene-a-mas-de-1600-migrantes-hacinados-en-el-ceti-de-melilla.html
- R. Soto & L. Munoz, “Los Masificados CETI de Melilla y Ceuta: Carceles a Cielo Abierto Amenazadas por el Coronavirus,” Publico, 3 April 2020, https://www.publico.es/sociedad/covid-19-ceti-ceti-melilla-ceuta-carceles-cielo-abierto-amenazadas-coronavirus.html
- Immigration detainees held in Aluche CIE Protest Their Detention at the Start of the Covid-19
Pandemic (JuanJo Martín, EFE, 17 March 2020, “Immigration Detention in Spain: A Rapid Response to Covid-19,” Global Detention Project, May 2020, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/immigration-detention-in-spain-a-rapid-response-to-covid-19)