Skip to main content

Spain: Immigration Laws Applied Unfairly

The Spanish government has failed to ensure the uniform and coherent implementation of its immigration law, resulting in arbitrary and discriminatory treatment of migrants, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The Human Rights Watch report, "Discretion Without Bounds: The Arbitrary Implementation of Spanish Immigration Law," criticizes the Spanish authorities' uncoordinated and ad hoc application of Spanish Law 8/2000. The report criticizes the arbitrary treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Spain-in airports, in Madrid, along the Andalucian coast, in the two Spanish cities in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla), and in the Canary Islands.

At their meeting in Seville on June 21-22, European Union heads of state discussed further measures to control immigration.

"We are seriously concerned that the E.U.'s measures will only worsen the kinds of treatment we have documented in Spain," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch researchers found that in Spain the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers is primarily dependent on their point of entry into the country, regardless of the fact that Spain's immigration and asylum laws should be applied uniformly throughout the country.

Researchers found that in the case of certain migrant groups, particularly Algerians, the Spanish authorities use informal procedures to determine their country of origin, sometimes resulting in unreliable and arbitrary decisions. Human Rights Watch also documented disturbing violations of migrants' and asylum seekers' procedural rights, particularly their rights to information in a language they understand, meaningful legal and translation services, and an opportunity to appeal.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the Spanish government has recently focused its efforts on immigration control and speeding the process for migrants' expulsion and deportation, rather than on the serious human rights abuses Human Rights Watch and other groups have identified. Human Rights Watch calls on the Spanish government to:

take prompt measures to address the deficiencies of coordination among central, regional, and local authorities in order to ensure the fair and consistent interpretation of the rights of migrants under Law 8/2000 and its regulation;

ensure that the foreigner's law is applied in a nondiscriminatory manner, including the creation of clear guidelines for identification procedures;

provide all arriving migrants and asylum seekers with information pamphlets on the Spanish immigration procedure and their rights under Spanish, regional, and international law in a language they understand;

provide training on immigration and asylum law for lawyers representing migrants and ensure that migrants have a meaningful opportunity to seek legal assistance and to secure adequate legal representation for all processes governing their rights and status; and

ensure that every migrant subject to a return procedure in Spain receives a full and fair individual determination with respect to repatriation, deportation, or expulsion.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country