Last Updated: Friday, 08 December 2017, 11:58 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Spain

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Spain , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 11 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 2003, Spain hosted about 230 refugees in need of protection. During the year, 5,900 asylum seekers filed applications in Spain, an 8 percent decrease from 2002. The largest numbers came from Nigeria (1,700), Colombia (520), Algeria (350), Congo-Kinshasa (270), Côte d' Ivoire (240), and Liberia (190).

The Spanish authorities issued decisions on 2,800 asylum applications in 2003, granting about 230 persons asylum (8 percent), 72 humanitarian protection (3 percent), and 70 temporary protections. Authorities rejected around 2,400 asylum claims (86 percent), and found over 4,200 applications inadmissible into the asylum procedure, including claims deemed manifestly unfounded.

New Developments

In December, amendments to Spain's Aliens Act came into force, including the adoption of higher carriers' liability on air, sea and land carriers, and the imposition of three to ten-year re-entry bans on persons caught trying to enter Spain without proper documents.

Also in December, Spain passed new legislation allowing provincial law tribunals to review expulsion orders in an attempt to speed up the process of expelling inadmissible or rejected asylum seekers. (This legislation came into force on January 15, 2004)

During the year, Spain apprehended more than 56,400 foreigners at Spanish borders, the majority from Morocco. The Spanish coast guard intercepted over 19,000 people at sea 9,400 near the Canary Islands and 9,800 in the Straits between North Africa and southern Spain. Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, northern Africa, and even south Asia risked perilous journeys in weak boats to reach Spain. Authorities estimated that at least 100 people died during the year when their boats sank off Spanish shores.

During the year, the government increased spending on expulsions, removed some 92,700 persons (20 percent more than in 2002), and opened two new foreigner detention centers, one in Algeciras on the mainland and one in Tenerife, the Canary Islands. The government dealt with overcrowding problems on the Canary Islands by transferring some 10,000 undocumented migrants to detention centers on the mainland during 2002 and 2003.

Asylum seekers in Spain's northern African enclave of Ceuta faced severe overcrowding in the one reception center, forcing some 500 people to live on the streets, 300 without support from any agencies. After visiting Ceuta in November, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged the Spanish authorities to deploy more resources. UNHCR noted that Médicos sin Fronteras and religious nongovernmental organizations were struggling to cope with the needs of migrants outside the camps who were living under "very precarious conditions." They also urged the Spanish authorities to increase resources for asylum application processing in Ceuta as applicants have to wait three to four months to formally lodge their claim.

In December, the Spanish government signed an agreement with Morocco to facilitate the return of unaccompanied asylum seeking children over the age of 16 if either parent can be located, or if Morocco can guarantee adequate guardianship. The two governments said they would set up an ad-hoc committee to evaluate conditions of reception for the juveniles' return, and Spain agreed to provide financial support for the project. (The project started on January 1, 2004)

In April, Spain signed a voluntary repatriation agreement with the International Organization for Migration to assist immigrants, asylum seekers, or refugees who wished to return home voluntarily. UNHCR reported that during 2003, 150 people repatriated under the program.

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