The controversy regarding the appropriateness of internment facilities for foreigners (CIEs in Spanish) was front-page news last April when the Minister of the Interior, Juan Ignacio Zoido, announced the opening of three new centres in the full senate in Madrid, Algeciras and Malaga.
If Barcelona Council had already requested the closure of the Barcelona CIE in recent years, the Penal System Observatory regarding immigration, the Andalusia Criminology Institute of Malaga and the city’s university have published a report calling for the closure of the eight internment facilities present in Spain and for those announced by the Minister not to be opened.
This controversy only serves to spark even more debate within the European Union: management of migration flows (and of refugees) with respect for the democratic principles of the member states and the Union itself. One of the mechanisms foreseen to administer foreigners with no residence permit while their expulsion order is being processed has been the creation of internment facilities, which, without being prisons in the formal sense, allow for the confinement, without freedom of movement, of those persons in an irregular situation in the national territory of a member state until the administrative (or penal) procedure is finalised and expulsion, or, otherwise, authorisation to continue to reside in the country is decided.
The European Union had tried to implement the necessary measures to contain immigration with the directive relative to norms and procedures common to the member states concerning the return of nationals of third countries in an irregular situation, which shared a new amendment to immigration law in Spain years later with a regulation of the functioning of the CIEs. In any case, these regulations have not enjoyed a broad consensus, mainly in countries in the south of Europe, which are under heavy pressure due to migration flows coming from Africa and are left to their fate by members in the north of Europe. The deficient conditions of these centres, and the restrictions on rights which they imply (the directive allows for deprivation of liberty for as many as 180 days; according to Spanish regulations, as many as 60 days), have caused repeated protests both from associations defending human rights and professionals who work with those affected and from some political groups.
The report presented in Malaga at the beginning of July which calls for the closure of all the CIEs points to the fact that, among other criticisms, in 2016 only 29% of the inmates of the centres were expelled, meaning that 71% were freed, a fact which, as far as those signing the report are concerned, means that these facilities are used as a second prison without a just cause (often merely due to residence irregularities). With time this situation has become alarmingly more serious, as in 2013 52.5% of the inmates were finally expelled; in 2014 the figure went down to 47.5%, and then down to 41.4% in 2015, and twelve points less last year. This means that if the purpose of the centres is to facilitate the expelling of foreigners, its effectiveness (considering that the number of inmates has increased) is plummeting.