Immigration Detention Centres and Border Control in Spain: Main Concerns and Recent Developments
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Post by Ana Ballesteros, PhD candidate at the University of Barcelona (Spain). Her research examines female incarceration in the Spanish Penitentiary System with specific focus on the analysis of prison policies implemented over the past decade. Her research interests include punishment and social control, gender, prisons and migration control. Ana is the Guest Tweeter for the @BorderCrim account this week (7th-11th November, 2016). You can follow her on Twitter @anaballes.
Over the last few weeks, recent developments have activated the public debate about immigration detention centres and border control in Spain (see here, here and here). One of the main aims of my role as a Twitter Guest for Border Criminologies this week is to contribute to a better understanding of all the information disseminated in the Spanish media about these debates. As the main language of the Border Criminologies’ audience is English, this blog post offers a brief description of the main issues of current concern and a summary of recent developments in order to provide readers with a context through which to understand the Spanish case.
The 2015 report by the UN Human Rights Committee sheds light on the sociopolitical framework in which current events are taking place. The report refers to some of the main issues that I will allude to in my tweets at the Bordercrim account this week. These issues are:
- Continued use of identity checks by the police based on racial and ethnic profiling targeting certain ethnic minorities, particularly the Roma;
- Discrimination in access to housing, education, employment and health care suffered by immigrants, foreigners and ethnic minorities, including the Roma minority;
- Persistent violence against women, especially the high level of violence experienced by women of immigrant origin, particularly those of Roma origin;
- Persistent use of deprivation of liberty for irregular immigrants and complaints of ill-treatment by state officials at foreigner internment centres;
- Summary returns, also known as “hot expulsions”, which take place at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla and ‘express deportations’, highlighting the breach of the principle of non-refoulement.
- Restricted access to the asylum process for asylum seekers.
- Frequent reports of allegations of ill-treatment in the context of expulsions of immigrants, including asylum seekers in Ceuta and Melilla, both by Spanish authorities and by Moroccan authorities operating on Spanish soil.
- Evidence that Spain continues to be a destination, transit and source country for women, men and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Against this background, recent developments regarding immigration detention centres, and more widely migration policy, have reignited the public debate about border control and detention of migrants. The main ones are as follows:
- Protests and hunger strikes inside Immigration Detention Centres (CIEs). For example, in the night of 18thOctober 2016, around 39 migrants detained in the Aluche Immigration Detention Center started a peaceful protest in the rooftop to complain against living conditions at the centre. After 12 hours of negotiation, they ceased the protest. Hours later, civil society organizations supporting migrant rights reported physical aggressions suffered by migrants involved in the protest. On the 21st of October, a group of migrants started a hunger strike in the same immigration detention center. On the 23rd of October, 69 migrants from Barcelona Immigration Detention Center (Zona Franca) also began a hunger strike reporting ill-treatment and asking for freedom. Both hunger strikes ceased hours later.
- Supervising judges in charge of immigration detention centers demanded the use of surveillance cameras following reports of physical aggressions as a result of protests inside immigration detention centers. One judge also ordered the center to guarantee the right to request asylum for those detained in immigration detention centres.
- Civil society organizations working on migrants’ human rights organized demonstrations outside immigration detention centers and expressed their concern about the possibility of migrants getting deported as a result of previous protests.
- Local governments and regional parliaments demanded the closure of immigration detentions centers in their region. Last summer, for example, the Catalan Parliament, and months later the regional government, requested the closure of these facilities and a more respectful migration policy which complies with human rights laws. The local government of Barcelona (Catalonia) is also looking at the possibility of closing the immigration detention center located in the city. Additionally, more recently, the local government of Madrid has started working towards the same end. Other cities in the country have been declared “cities free of immigration detention centers” following an institutional advocacy campaign from civil society organizations.
- Escapes from the Murcia and Aluche Immigration Detention Centers. At the beginning of October, 67 migrants fled from the Sangoñera Verde Immigration Detention Center in Murcia. More recently, two Argelian migrants ran away from Aluche Immigration Detention Center.
- A recently released report from a civil society organization highlighted the persistence of racial and ethnic profiling by the police.
- Thirteen civil society organizations reported the lack of access to contraception and abortion, as a result of the Royal Law-Decree 16/2012 for Sanitary Regulation, which constitutes a violation of sexual and reproductive rights of migrant and refugee women.
- On 31st October, more than 200 migrants entered into Ceuta after jumping the fence. The majority of them tried to escape from the police because of the threat of a “hot expulsion”.
The above contextual information will help Twitter followers to understand the news and facts about border control in Spain (which are mainly in Spanish) that I will be sharing during this week. When available, I will also provide links to the limited amount of academic contributions (in English and Spanish), analyzing different aspects of migration and refugee policies in Spain. Finally, I will tweet references to some more invisible subjects, such as women migrant and refugees, and their different pathways and experiences, giving examples of the gendered nature of migration and refuge processes.
Social media, like Twitter, present us with powerful tools to disseminate information, not only inside state borders, but also globally, helping the creation of strategic and fruitful alliances between practitioners, scholars, civil society members and human rights activists. Social media can (and should) contribute to reinforce online activism and feed the debate about migrant policies and border control within a human rights approach.
Note: For a background on the current situation in Spain regarding detention and the criminalization of migration, please see other Border Criminologies’ blog contributions:
- Making the Invisible Visible: Women in Immigration Detention Centres in Spain, Anna Morero, Ana Ballesteros and Elisabet Almeda.
- Using Criminal Charges to Punish Administrative Immigration Offences in Spain, Daniel Moffette and Christian Orgaz.
- Migrant Women’s Health in Spain: A Snapshot of the Consequences of the Royal Decree-Law of Sanitary Regulation 16/2012, Anna Morero and Ana Ballesteros.
- Experiences of Foreign-National Female Prisoners in Spain, Marta Ruiz-García and Joaquina Castillo-Algarra.
- Why an Observatory about Criminal Justice Responses towards Immigration in Spain?, Elisa García-España and María Contreras
- Immigration Detention in Spain: Law Acting as a Gatekeeper Amidst Bureaucratic Justice, Byron Villagomez Moncayo
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