Critics call out conditions, injustice at migrant centres

Protesters outside Algeciras 'Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros' (CIE). Archive photo: Público
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• Judges for Democracy, SOS Racismo, Women’s Link decry detention centres
• Barcelona ready to file suit against Interior Ministry to close Zona Franca CIE

Eight Centres for the Internment of Foreigners (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, or CIEs) located across Spain and North Africa at which migrants are meant to be temporarily detained before awaiting deportation hearings are coming under fire from some Spanish non-governmental organisations and local governments. Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, which administers the centres, is being singled out in an increasing number of reports of inhumane conditions and mistreatment of internees that critics say leave Spain in violation of international accords on human rights and the treatment of migrants and refugees.

Last weekend, Spain’s Judges for Democracy Association (Jueces para la Democracia, or JpD) called for the closure of the internment centres at the organisation’s annual conference held in Lleida, saying the CIEs are functioning as de facto prisons existing outside the legal parameters established for internment of prisoners under Spain’s judicial system. Saying it is not possible to guarantee the legal rights of the internees in the current CIE system, the association of judges also pointed specifically to a lack of protection for women internees who have been victimized by human trafficking rings.

The latter charge has been echoed by the international women’s rights group Women’s Link Worldwide, which has issued a report denouncing what it says are inhumane conditions faced by 11 female internees in the CIE in Algeciras, which is located at the site of an old, deteriorated prison facility in the Andalucian city. So bad are conditions at the Algeciras CIE that men internees have been transferred to other centres but the women have been forced to remain in the unsanitary and inhumane conditions, which Women’s Link says is the case precisely because they are women and are treated differently than men in the Spanish migrant detention system.

At the CIE Aluche in Madrid, local organisation SOS Racismo has denounced efforts by Spanish immigration authorities to deport a 37-year-old Tunisian man who suffered a broken leg as a result of an accident trying to enter Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla in March. SOS Racismo says that contrary to Spanish law and international treaties that call for humane treatment in such a case, the man has been forced to remain in the Aluche CIE and is scheduled for deportation without full and proper medical assistance having been provided.

The ongoing pressure on the central government to improve conditions at the eight CIEs located nationwide come as Barcelona City Council has announced it plans to file a lawsuit against Spain’s Ministry of the Interior for not having taken any steps to close the CIE located in Barcelona’s Zona Franca nearly two months after city officials issued an administration closure order on 29th March. Barcelona officials said they will file the suit with the Audiencia Nacional high court unless the Ministry takes action forthwith.

► Read More in Spanish at La Vanguardia, Público, Europa Press & 20minutos …

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