Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Spain

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Spain , 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 17 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 1998, Spain hosted 2,522 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 1,560 applicants with pending cases, 727 persons granted temporary protection, and 235 persons granted asylum in 1998.

During the year, 6,545 asylum seekers filed applications in Spain, a 31 percent increase over the 4,976 who sought asylum in 1998. By country of origin, the largest groups of asylum seekers arrived from Algeria (1,581), Romania (1,065), Sierra Leone (386), Nigeria (253), and Morocco (248).

The Spanish authorities issued decisions affecting 6,830 applicants in 1998, granting 235 persons asylum (3 percent), and 727 persons temporary protection (11 percent). Spain rejected 5,868 asylum seekers (86 percent) in 1998.

Spain tended to look most favorably on Colombian applicants, granting refugee status to 40 in 1998, an approval rate of 29 percent. The authorities also granted 40 Cubans refugee status in 228 decisions issued during the year, an approval rate of 17.5 percent. Of the 1,427 decisions made on Algerian claims, Spain granted asylum only to 20 applicants, an approval rate of 1 percent.

Asylum Procedure

Spain's asylum procedure is governed by the Refugee Law 5/1984, as amended. Asylum seekers can file applications with the Ministry of Interior's Office for Asylum and Refuge (OAR), the police at the border or within the territory, and at Spanish Diplomatic and Consular missions abroad. In applying, asylum seekers must submit evidence on identity and a credible statement asserting persecution.

OAR reviews all asylum applications for admissibility to the regular determination procedure. UNHCR submits an opinion on the admissibility of each claim to the OAR.

Spain's 1994 asylum amendments introduced an accelerated procedure for inadmissible or "manifestly unfounded" asylum claims. Cases may be considered inadmissible if the person has sought or could have sought protection in a third country, the applicant bases the claim on manifestly false or outdated information, or if the application is a mere reiteration of an earlier case denied by the Spanish authorities. According to UNHCR, the "safe third country" concept is not usually applied by itself, but along with other reasons for declaring an application inadmissible. In 1998, Spain deemed the applications of 3,722 persons inadmissible to the regular procedure.

OAR forwards all admissible applications to the Interminsterial Commission for Asylum and Refugee Status (CIAR), which includes representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, labor and social affairs and justice. Once Spain admits an asylum application to the regular determination process, UNHCR attends meetings of CIAR in an advisory capacity.

CIAR issues a decision, usually within four months, based on the information provided in the OAR file and the opinions provided by UNHCR and various NGOs. While awaiting a decision, 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.

In addition to Convention refugee status, Spain may extend temporary protection to displaced persons who have fled their country of origin as a result of political, religious, or ethnic conflict. Recipients of temporary protection receive yearly residence permits for the duration of the conflict in the country of origin. They are entitled to the same social benefits as recognized refugees.

Denied asylum seekers can appeal negative decisions to the National Audience, a national court, within two months of notification. Appeals do not immediately suspend expulsion orders although asylum seekers can request a suspension, which is usually granted.

Dublin Convention

Spain began implementation of the Dublin Convention on September 1, 1997, an EU agreement that designates state responsibility for adjudicating asylum claims. Generally, the convention stipulates that the member state permitting the asylum seeker entry, or the member state of first arrival in the event of illegal entry, is responsible for reviewing the asylum application. During 1998, Spain submitted 160 requests for transfer to other Dublin states and received 548 requests for transfer from other Dublin Convention members.

After passage in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in 1998, the government ratified the Amsterdam Treaty on January 5, 1999. The Amsterdam Treaty expands the power of the EU to develop common immigration and asylum policies.

North African Spanish Enclaves

During 1998, Spain transferred some 1,200 asylum seekers from Melilla and Cueta, two small Spanish enclaves in North Africa, to the mainland, after reaching an agreement with NGOs. The transferred asylum seekers underwent a two-month integration course, including language lessons and vocational training. After completing the integration course, the asylum seekers received a one-year residence and work permit.

While the 1,200 mostly sub-Saharan asylum seekers were transferred to the Spanish mainland, some 400 Algerians remained in the two cities. The Spanish authorities deny most Algerian asylum seekers access to the determination procedure, arguing that most arrive from non conflict areas. Protesting this policy, some 200 Algerians in Melilla demonstrated at the Spanish government's office. Spain finally agreed to review the Algerian applications on a case-by-case basis.

Throughout 1998, Spain stepped up surveillance around the two Spanish cities to prevent the arrival of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers. The government increased the number of guards and the use of cameras to further secure the borders. Workers erected two parallel electric fences topped with barbed wire around Melilla, earning the barrier the nickname "the new Berlin Wall." The reception center in Cueta was closed for renovation, following criticism about its poor facilities. These measures reflect Spain's implementation of the Schengen Agreement to create a passport-free zone in Europe.

However, the increased security at the two Spanish enclaves has had little effect on the flow of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from North Africa. The Association of Immigrant Moroccan Workers in Spain estimates that nearly five persons drown each day attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.

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