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26 May 2020 – Spain

Police Surrounding the Aluche Detention Centre in Madrid, (Paco Campos,
Police Surrounding the Aluche Detention Centre in Madrid, (Paco Campos, "Motivos por los que no reabrir los CIE cuando pase el coronavirus," CuartoPoder, 15 April 2020,

Spain’s decision to temporarily shut its “foreigner internment centres” (CIEs)–which were empty as of 6 May–in response to the Covid-19 crisis has raised questions about the treatment of released detainees. In late March the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration announced that it would work in coordination with the Immigration and Border police to accommodate all those released from CIEs.

As of 20 March, the CIE in Barcelona had been emptied and most of the 40 detainees were wherever possible returned to their family homes and some were referred to social services. Those who were not returned home were directed to social organisations like Fundacion Cepaim, which has assisted nearly 50 former detainees, providing shelter, food, and counseling as part of the NGO’s “humanitarian aid” program. The program lasts for three months and aims to integrate undocumented migrants that cannot be returned or deported to their countries of origin. The program is in place in 22 cities and towns in Spain and social workers and other professionals implement the plan. Accommodation is provided in shared apartments (6 persons) as well as food, clothing, and sanitary products. They are also given travel cards for public transport with a certain amount of fares and are offered legal and social support to resolve their immigration status.

Jesuit Refugee Services – Spain has started a campaign for the Spanish government to not reopen CIEs and put an end to immigration detention in the country. A petition has been launched urging the government to close CIEs definitively and to never detain vulnerable persons. Police experts have conceded that “once the Covid-19 crisis is over, it will be very difficult to bring back all those released into CIEs,” thus casting further doubt upon the measures that will be taken.

As regards the country’s prisons, on 30 April 2020, the Ministry of Justice announced that “Covid-19 had affected the prison population four times less than the outside population.” From the start of the pandemic until 12 May, the prison system confirmed that 254 prison staff members and 56 inmates tested positive for Covid-19. 18 women imprisoned with their children were freed under electronic monitoring on 12 May and two days later, the Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, declared that inmates will once again be allowed to take leaves and to receive family visits.