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Humans

Immigrants stand up for liberty in Spanish detention centers

January 18th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Maria Clara Montoya
tags:Global Detention Project (GDP)​, Immigration Detention Centre, migrant, Spain

Recent protests and hunger strikes made by immigrants locked in Immigration Detention Centres in Spain have increased the attention of society on these spaces where people receive the treatment of inmates without being criminals, simply because they are undocumented.

It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman or if you have a family with children. You may not have committed any crime, but in the eyes of the Spanish police, you could be detained just for a simple matter: not having the legal documents to live in the country.

Spain houses eight Immigration Detention Centres (CIEs in Spanish) around the country controlled by the Interior Ministry “to guarantee the deportation of undocumented foreigners” according to the law. Even though these spaces are not jails, the treatment that the arrested receive inside make it feel like one, detainees denounce.

Immigration detention in Spain has decreased by 50 percent between 2011-2015 as reported by the research centre Global Detention Project (GDP). However, the general interest in CIEs has raised since the protests occurred during the last few months, where interns have demanded freedom and better conditions in these spaces.

„When the Spanish state deprives citizens of liberty because of the administrative offence of being undocumented, this generates a feeling of injustice“, says the spokeswoman of the NGO Sos Racismo, Clara Sierra.

By the end of October, a group of 39 migrants arrested in Madrid’s CIE started a peaceful protest on the rooftop, demanding better conditions. Days after, they started hunger strikes both in Madrid and Barcelona centres and even though they finished hours later, these situations have made more visible their living conditions inside. The Spanish government refuses to consider that these centres are jails, but they described the actions taken by the immigrants as „mutinies“.

CIEs are locations of “total opacity”, Sos Racismo states. Once the detainees enter there, they have a maximum arrest of 60 days. Sierra says that “there is a lack of assistance to the detained so they can spend their period without seeing a lawyer, the medical attention is insufficient and the access to interpreters isn’t easy”.

After the confinement period, they are “deported in flights operated by the company Air Nostrum, or released under an unprotected condition”. The CIE in Madrid locks up people from other regions in Spain, something problematic in Sierra’s opinion because what happens is that people “usually they don’t have money to return to their place of residence”.

Sos Racismo has warned as well of “express deportations”, a police practice consisting of deporting immigrants in less than 72 hours, a method “that doesn’t have any legal certainty and it’s increasingly common”.

662 people were expelled in this way, versus the 4726 deportations made in CIES during 2013. Sierra says that it’s “difficult to know the numbers because they have never been clear and when we know about it was because of a parliamentary question”.

NGOs always try to cut back the secrecy around these spaces and one of the most important achievements for them is that they can now enter CIEs following a 2011 court decision, something crucial for Sierra. With their visits they supply “a better defense of [immigrants‘] rights”.

Although things today are „calmed“ inside them because of the media coverage, „there are barriers: sometimes they have denied us the access for ‘security reasons’, an arbitrary way to reject our visits”, Sierra says.

But that isn’t the main battle. Migrants, civil organisations and the Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, have all demanded the closure of CIEs. “We consider that dignity couldn’t be locked in a CIE and when you submit people to bad treatment, they generate resistance answers and revindications of freedom”, Sos Racismo remarks.

That stand for freedom has increased the attention and the hope that someday these spaces are closed.

 Global Detention Project (GDP) 

Article written by:
Maria Clara Montoya
Author
You may not have committed any crime, but in the eyes of the Spanish police, you could be detained just for a simple matter: not having the legal documents to live in the country.
Spain houses eight Immigration Detention Centres (CIEs in Spanish) around the country controlled by the Interior Ministry “to guarantee the deportation of undocumented foreigners” according to the law.
Even though these spaces are not jails, the treatment that the arrested receive inside make it feel like one.

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