Integral ecology

Jesuit Migrant Service and chaplains question the CIEs

The Centers for the Internment of Foreigners are not necessary, as demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic, during which they have remained closed for several months. This is the denunciation made by the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM) and chaplains such as Antonio Viera, from the CIE of the Canary Islands.

Rafael Miner-June 8, 2021-Reading time: 4 minutes

The Jesuit Migrant Service reiterated at the end of last week in the Spanish Senate "its commitment to accompany and defend the people interned in the CIE", and once again called for "their closure and the search for legal and political alternatives for people who fall into irregularity".

The concluding proposals of its report on 2020, entitled Legal reason and no political reason, point out the need to "at least improve prevention and health care, if not suspend internment in pandemics. In their opinion, it is still necessary to correct situations of violated rights, and to take into account the complaints of torture or the internment of vulnerable profiles such as minors and asylum seekers.

The SJM report on 2020, directs the gaze towards internment in times of coronavirus, with particular attention to insufficient health care. "The CIEs closed their doors before the declaration of the state of alarm in March 2020, in an initially uncoordinated and chaotic manner, although the legal basis and clear decisions of the Police and the Prosecutor's Office were then perceived." However, they resumed their activity from September, "with insufficient preventive anti-covid measures and severe isolation for infected people, with the consequent climate of anguish and anxiety for the inmates," says the study.

In 2020, according to the report, a total of 2,224 persons were interned in CIE, the vast majority (79 %) for reasons of refoulement after irregular entry, followed by reasons of expulsion (16 %). On the other hand, 42 minors were identified, almost 2 % of the total number of inmates, "a figure too high but lower than the real one, as it calls into question the reliability of the age determination tests", points out the SJM, whose coordinator is Carmen de la Fuente.

An important fact, in the opinion of the report's editors, is that "it reflects the unnecessary suffering to which the inmates are subjected: of the total number of persons returned to Spain (1,904), only 28 % were from CIE, and of the total number of expulsions (1,835), 38 % were from CIE. 47 % of the inmates were finally released for various reasons because their forced repatriation could not be carried out".

In addition, the courts admitted last year "the patrimonial responsibility of the State in the case of the death of Samba Martine, in Madrid in December 2011. An act of justice and reparation, the result of almost a decade of judicial and social struggle on the part of the family and close social organizations", the vicissitudes of which were recounted by lawyer Cristina Manzanedo.

Rescuing from invisibility

Antonio Viera, chaplain of the CIE of Barranco Seco, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, agrees with the diagnosis of the Jesuit Service, and has prefaced his report with a text entitled "People to rescue from the sea of invisibility". The chaplain affirms the "unnecessary existence of the CIE", because, among other reasons, "it is well known that the CIE systematically violates the human rights of the people held", by "lacking access to basic services", such as health services or legal advice, for example. The report addresses numerous issues, writes Antonio Viera, "making it clear that Spain survives empty CIEs".

In statements to Omnes, the chaplain explains that in the CIE of Barranco Seco there are "currently eight people: there are the Moroccans who are going to be deported to Morocco, and they will be released soon, because the maximum time of stay in the CIE is 60 days".

"The logical thing to do is to close the CIEs," he adds, "because they also waste taxpayers' money. They have no reason to exist. Here they have handled health care well during the pandemic. What these people need is psychological support, because they arrive devastated after the crossing of the Atlantic," he tells Omnes.

"The people in this CIU have restricted family visits, because of Covid, and the only ones who attend to them are the chaplain and the Red Cross volunteers," he says.

Migrants in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands is one of the places where more immigrants have entered in recent months, in addition to Ceuta. "The Canary Islands cannot be a new Lampedusa. The Canary Islands is Spain, and whoever arrives in Spain is already free to transit throughout the State. José Mazuelos, bishop of the Canary Islands and president of the Episcopal Subcommission for the Family and the Defense of Life of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, in a meeting with journalists on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the EEC. This is how he reflected it Omnes

In that meeting, Bishop Mazuelos recalled the pastoral letter signed by the bishops of the islands, denouncing the situation of thousands of people arriving at the Canary coasts and who were in subhuman conditions. Furthermore, the bishop of the Canary Islands emphasized that "this is a problem of the central government that it has to assume and fix. The autonomous government of the Canary Islands is helping a lot; Caritas is overwhelmed: there are people sleeping in the street, the number of meals given per day has tripled".


In the near horizon, according to the SJM, it has been confirmed "the project of a new CIE in Botafuegos, Algeciras, with an investment of almost 27 million euros between 2021 and 2024". In addition, the funding proposed in the General State Budget of 2021, added to those already published in previous years, brings the figure to more than 32.5 million for the period 2019-2024. The new center of Algeciras cup most, but the other 6 million are intended for the reform and refurbishment of existing centers, which demonstrates a clear political intentionality, says the SJM.

In the presentation in the Senate, Carmen de la Fuente pointed out that currently the CIEs of Valencia and Algeciras are closed for works, while Josetxo Ordóñez added that "in Barcelona last year there were exactly 200 days without internments, from May 6 to September 23". Josep Buedes, another author of the report, made special emphasis on the fact that "Interior does not give us the information we request".

Meanwhile, the chaplain of the CIE of Barranco Seco in Las Palmas, Antonio Viera, recalls a message of Pope Francis on the occasion of the World Day of Peace in 2016: "I would like to invite you to review the legislation on migrants, so that it is inspired by the will to welcome, in the respect of reciprocal duties and responsibilities, and can facilitate the integration of migrants".

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