back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

16 November 2020 – Spain

A Migrant Standing Outside the Aluche CIE, (Claudio Alvarez,
A Migrant Standing Outside the Aluche CIE, (Claudio Alvarez, "Una Sentencia Europea Impide a Espana Expulsar Inmigrantes Solo por Estar en Situacion Irregular," El Pais, 12 November 2020,

In October, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a ruling on a deportation case in Spain that would limit the country’s ability to enforce removal decisions in certain cases based on provisions of the EU Return Directive. The court in Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region had asked the CJEU whether authorities could rely on provisions in the Directive to effect a removal in lieu of the more stringent requirements provided in Spanish law, which requires the existence of aggravating circumstances–in addition to irregular status– to justify the procedure. The CJEU found that the court had to rely on the provisions of the national law in the particular case and not the Directive.

According to the CJEU, the national authority cannot rely on a “deportation order” to expel a migrant in an irregular situation if national law imposes a fine or only provides for return when there are serious violations. In consequence, the ruling obliges the government to apply the Spanish Immigration Law, which imposes a fine in cases of irregular stay and only contemplates the expulsion of foreigners in an irregular situation when there are aggravating circumstances.

In 2019, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior expelled 4,677 people from the country and returned a further 6,476 to their countries of origin. According to Eurostat, those figures correspond to around 30% of the 37,890 orders that were issued against non-citizens to leave the Spanish territory. Despite the fact that the percentage of expulsions and returns in 2019 is below the European average (36%), it nonetheless represents an increase compared to 2018.

On 23 September, the National Police (Policia Nacional) ordered the re-opening of immigration detention centres (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros or CIEs) closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (see 2 July, 26 May and 15 May Spain updates on this platform). The Police also ordered that the Central Repatriation Unit carry out “appropriate steps with the consulates of the countries of origin, to be able to effectuate the expulsions”.