Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Spain

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1998
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Spain, 1 January 1998, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 1997, Spain hosted nearly 3,300 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included applicants in an estimated 1,100 pending asylum cases, 2,000 Bosnians with temporary protection, and 152 persons granted asylum in 1997.

During the year, asylum seekers filed 4,976 applications in Spain, a 5.2 percent increase over the 4,730 filed in 1996. By country of origin, the largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Romania (1,515), Nigeria (373), Liberia (323), and Cuba (283).

Spain's Interministerial Asylum and Refugee Commission (CIAR) made decisions on 4,648 asylum applications in 1997, granting refugee status to 152 persons (3.3 percent), humanitarian status to 224 (4.8 percent), and rejecting 4,272 (91.9 percent).

A readmission agreement that Spain had signed with Bulgaria in late 1996 came into force on February 28, 1997.

Asylum Procedure Spain's 1994 asylum law introduced an accelerated procedure for inadmissible or "manifestly unfounded" asylum claims. In 1997, Spain put 3,398 applications into the accelerated procedure, some 70 percent of those it received.

Legally, persons submitting asylum applications at a Spanish port of entry should have a decision within four days. During this period, asylum seekers are kept in "reception centers." If the application is deemed inadmissible, the asylum seeker has 24 hours to submit an appeal to the Office of Asylum and Refuge (OAR), a branch of the Ministry of Interior. The OAR then has two days to respond. If the appeal is also rejected, the person is deported. Asylum seekers whose claims are deemed inadmissible at airports may be sent out on the next available flight.

The OAR forwards admissible applications to the CIAR, which includes representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Labor and Social Affairs, and Justice. CIAR must decide within two months the admissibility of claims from asylum seekers who apply inside national territory. During this period, asylum seekers are not entitled to state-funded assistance, and those in need must depend on charitable sources or NGOs. Asylum seekers are entitled to the assistance of legal counselors and interpreters.

Applications declared admissible are decided within four months. During this time, the asylum seeker receives accommodation and meals, and may apply for a work permit. After evaluation, CIAR issues its proposed decision to the Ministry of Interior. If the ministry concurs with the CIAR decision, it becomes final. OAR issues an identity document to accepted applicants, making them eligible for residency, work, and social benefits. Rejected applicants who had applied within Spanish territory have 15 days to leave the country voluntarily.

Safe Third Country Cases Asylum applications may be inadmissible if Spain deems that another state is responsible for examining the claim, or if the applicant can return to a safe third country. During 1997, Spain deemed inadmissible the applications of 72 persons and transferred them to other states under the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Convention, to which Spain is a party. Both accords outline responsibilities for adjudicating the asylum claims of applicants who arrive in the countries covered by the agreement. Spain began implementing the Schengen Agreement in March 1995, and the Dublin Convention in September 1997.

North African Spanish Enclaves Since October 1996, Spain has allowed asylum seekers to apply for asylum in Spain at the two Spanish enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, in North Africa. Spain's decision to post asylum officials at the two enclaves followed a series of protests by asylum seekers who had been treated as clandestine immigrants and detained in the two cities.

In January 1997, the Ministries of Interior and Social Affairs agreed to allow some 450 immigrants housed in Melilla to be transported to the Spanish mainland, giving them 15 days to secure an employment contract or have their asylum claims declared admissible.

In February, the Spanish interior minister announced that Spain would improve living conditions for African immigrants and asylum seekers living in a former youth camp in Ceuta and in a warehouse on a poultry farm in Melilla. However, in August, Spanish human rights groups criticized the "appalling and overcrowded" conditions in which the more than 800 immigrants were living in the two enclaves, complaining that they often could not even fill out requests for asylum because there were no Spanish government offices there. The government planned to open a new temporary reception center housing 300 people in November in Melilla.

UNHCR said that while asylum seekers in Ceuta and Melilla have access to Spain's refugee status determination procedures, they lack legal counseling, and are often poorly interviewed at local police stations. The government began circulating an asylum information leaflet in nine languages to address this issue.

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