Friday 27 May 2011

The Conditions in Immigrants’ Prison Camps in Spain – wrongly and outrageously known as Immigrants’ Boarding Centres (CIEs: Centro de Internamiento para Extranjeros)

The conditions in centres for third country national (detention camps, open centres as well as transit centres and transit zones) with a particular focus on provisions and facilities for persons with special needs in the 25 EU member states "

The following study was commissioned by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

This work follows a number of visits by delegations from the LIBE committee to several European Union Member States. These missions resulted in the publishing of reports or resolutions.

This study looks at conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in reception, detention or transit centres, and is based on field studies carried out in twenty-five European Union countries. It is the first study on the subject based on field studies throughout all European Union countries, i.e. twenty-five countries at the time the study was commissioned in December 2006.

The report below is based on the study presented for Spain. Despite the fact it dates back to 2007, the conditions at detention centres have not improved but worsened, especially after the latest Immigration Law (2010), which extends from 40 to 60 days the maximum period that illegal immigrants can be held in these centres before being deported. However, in practice, foreign nationals can be arrested on leaving the centre and therefore accumulate several consecutive 60 day detention periods.

STEPS Consulting Social study for European Parliament

2.24 SPAIN

Field study summary

1 – Brief description of how the study was carried out:

Our local partner, CEAR, is a non-governmental organisation which provides legal and social support for asylum seekers and other migrants. They were responsible for documentary research and the practical organisation of field visits.

Difficulties in obtaining access to detention centres were met (due to the Spanish authorities’ reservations concerning the study), which meant we were uncertain as to the authorised visiting dates which were given to us at the last minute. We were therefore unable to schedule visits to open centres (for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors), nor meetings with other takeholders (NGOs, international institutions). Finally, we were only able to visit the five selected detention centres (Fuertaventura, Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Algerisas). The administrative personnel in these centres participated entirely satisfactorily in the study.

2 – Background

Spain’s unique geographical position as the Southern door to the European Union with enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla, and islands close to the African continent, along with its historical and cultural links with certain countries (particularly in Latin America), mean that the issues surrounding immigration policy are particularly important in Spain.

The reinforcement of border controls and the implementation of a restrictive entry policy have had dramatic consequences: the arbitrary removal of Latin American nationals arriving by plane, and an increased number of shipwrecks and deaths of migrants arriving from North and Sub-Saharan Africa by sea.

The tragic events in October 2005 in Ceuta and Melilla led the Spanish and Moroccan governments to reinforce border controls in the Spanish enclaves. This has made is extremely difficult to pass through and has effectively pushed the European border further South. The reinforcement of controls along the African coast has pushed back the departure points for migrants arriving by sea: instead of leaving from Mauritania, ships transporting migrants now leave from Senegal, Gambia, Casamance and even as far as off as Guinea. This phenomenon has had tragic consequences with an increase in the number of deaths (up to 6000 in 2006 according to certain estimates).

3 – Description of detention and reception systems:

3-1 - Closed detention centres:

The CIE (Centro internamiento extranjeros) are intended to hold foreign nationals without the correct papers, awaiting a deportation order. These centres come under the authority of the “Commisaria General de Extranjeria y Documentacion”, and are run by the Spanish police force.

3-2 – Open centres: different types of open centres

·         The CETI (Centro d’Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes), situated in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, on the border. They take in illegal migrants and are run by the Ministry of Social Affairs relating to Labour. Although they are open centres, migrants cannot actually distance themselves from these centres.

·         Open centres for asylum seekers, designed to receive and accommodate asylum seekers are run by the Ministry of Social Affairs or their management is contracted out to Spanish NGOs. Some centres run by NGOs are intended to receive certain groups of vulnerable persons: pregnant women, female minors with children, asylum seekers suffering from psychological or psychiatric problems.

·         The centres for unaccompanied minors are run by the regional administration the “Autonomous Communities” (responsible for both foreign unaccompanied minors and those from within the country) or by specialised associations.

4 – Findings/conclusions:

Concerning detention centres (CIE)

·         Unnecessarily severe detention conditions, similar to conditions in prison (almost permanent confinement to cells, limited possibilities for outdoor exercise)
·         Deplorable hygiene and physical conditions have been observed in some centres leading to degrading conditions for detainees (Algesiras, Fuertaventura, Malaga: damaged buildings, lack of essential items for detainees such as sheets, clothing, personal hygiene kits).
·         Violent incidents perpetrated by the security personnel in some centres have been reported by detainees. Some centre personnel have a disrespectful and contemptuous attitude towards detainees, and there is no awareness-raising concerning the particularities of the migrants' situation.
·         The staff present is almost exclusively security personnel in charge of supervising detainees. Lack of medical services, medical personnel openly reticent about responding to the needs of detainees.
·         Absence of, or difficulties obtaining information concerning detainees rights, legal assistance, or translation services, centres which are closed to the outside (limited presence of NGOs due to difficulties obtaining entry authorisation)
·         Pathogenic nature of detention for already vulnerable migrants who often arrive in a poor psychological or physical state following a difficult journey.

Vulnerable persons

·         There are a large number of people in the centres who have suffered from abuse during, or have been traumatised by, their journey to Europe. The measures in place to assist these people, who are often extremely vulnerable (cases of women being raped when passing through Libya have been reported by the migrants) are unsatisfactory.
·         Only unaccompanied minors cannot be detained, those accompanied by their parents may be detained if the attorney general rules in favour of their detention, which does happen.
·         Unaccompanied minors are accommodated in special centres. The conditions in some of these centres for minors, notably in the Canary Islands, have been severely criticised in the latest Human Rights Watch report, which denounced cases of sexual abuse and physical violence.
·         Furthermore, some unaccompanied minors “suspected of being adults” may be detained in detention centres, given the unreliability of the bone age test used by the authorities in cases where the minor's age is in doubt.
·         In general there is a lack of personnel capable of identifying vulnerable persons; the only staff present is security personnel: no social workers, psychologists or doctors trained in recognising vulnerability are present.

5 – Recommendations

·         Relax the severe, prison-like detention conditions currently in force, which are entirely disproportionate and are not adapted to the needs of detainees held simply due to their administrative status.
·         Set up alternatives to detention, at least for certain categories of vulnerable persons, and in particular for families with children.
·         Improve living, physical, and hygiene conditions in the centres, at the very least renovation work should be carried out and detainees provided with essential items such as toiletries, shoes and clothing.
·         Open centres up to the outside by allowing NGOs permanent access to regularly monitor the centres, thus ensuring migrants' rights are upheld and abuses prevented.

Concerning vulnerable persons:

·         Implement measures to assist detainees particularly weakened by the conditions of their journey to Europe (due to difficult sea crossings or land journeys across the African continent).
·         Improve the identification and handling of certain categories of vulnerable persons and/or those suffering from psychological disorders, and ensure the presence of social workers psychologists, interpreters, medical staff and mediators.
·         Improve the system for accessing healthcare, notably by introducing medical staff who are independent from the national police service.
·         Concerning minors: introduce a new age testing method to replace the bone age test given its lack of reliability.
·         Ban the detention of pregnant women.

At this point, it should be mentioned that although the “Recommendations” made by STEPS, Consulting Social have been included to illustrate the appalling and degrading conditions immigrants live in, the only possible morally acceptable recommendation is the immediate and definite close of these jails that have come to be known as detention centres (or CIEs: Centros de Internamiento para Extranjeros, in Spain).

The following link can be followed to read the entire report:

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