The CIEs, the irregularity and the deprivation of liberty

By Patricia Rivero and Anna Niubo


Los CIEs, la irregularidad y la privación de la libertad

As is well known, the CIEs are the centres of internment of non-prison where it stops so precautionary or preventive to those foreign persons not belonging to the EU who are in irregular administrative. In these centers, people are detained and deprived of their freedom while controlling their expulsion from the country, during a maximum period of 60 days as laid down in the aliens Act in force.

In Spain there are ten detention centres, most of them have been harshly criticized by associations and institutions and national and international organizations by presenting legal conditions and unacceptable materials. Despite the fact that the history of the CIEs is full of complaints of violations of the rights of migrants, its reality is little known by the Spanish population. The administration is managed with secrecy and lack of transparency and the mainstream media devote little importance. In this sense, and speaking of the media, we want to emphasize that we, as we run from the “amarillismo” of the press and that’s why we decided to write this text in a context in which it has virtually disappeared, the theme CIEs. It is unacceptable that the death of a third inmate (the last was in the CIE of Barcelona) has been the trigger for all of us to reflect on the role of these centres. It’s been nearly two months and the CIEs ceased to be a subject of debate. Do you have to go back to die another human being for us all to reflect on the existence and function of these centres? In this regard, we stress, then, that the aim of this article has a double function, on the one hand, it seeks to invite all citizens to continue with the reflection; (invitation that is also do to the hegemonic media of information), and on the other, denounce that an administrative offense can not be paid with such a high price: the loss of freedom.

The reality of the CIEs comes from the situation of irregular or illegal entry of a significant group of foreign nationals who are in Spain in search of a better life. Looking for “some papers” that they become people visible and not in aliens-that-be before the law and before society. The irregularity has transformed into the reason of marginalization, legal and social, of the foreign spot is treated as a criminal who deserves punishment: the deprivation of liberty in conditions many times worse than in the prisons (Martinez, 2011) [1]. According to Pernía (2008) [2], the centres are worse than prisons, because these have at least a regulation in accordance with its regulations, while the CIEs do not have an own regulations on their operation, as provided for by the third additional Provision of the LO 2/2009.

Thus, while in the prison the functions of custody and treatment, are the responsibility of specialized officers, in the CIEs, the dependencies are at the expense of police officers. In effect, the inconsistency, the very existence of these centres, has multiple forms. Let’s take as an example that exposes the article 60 (according to the Organic Law 2/2009) in its section 2 says: “The places of internment for foreigners will not have the character of prison, and will be equipped with social services, legal, cultural and health. Foreign citizens detained will be deprived only of the right ambulatory.” It should be noted that at this point, the deprivation to the right “ambulatory”, as exposed by the LOEX, is, in itself, a deprivation of liberty.

On the other hand, in these centers are immigrants with criminal records or criminal alongside, as has already been said, people who have committed only an administrative offense -not having “papers”-.

All together, it shows that much does not need to reflect about it, and far from wanting to enter into discussions manichaeans, it jumps to the view that the very existence of these centers violates the fundamental rights of the people migrated because of the simple fact that people. To illustrate this better, nothing better than to recall the article 17 of the Spanish Constitution, which in its first paragraph says: “Every person has the right to liberty and security. No one can be deprived of his liberty, but with the enforcement of the provisions of this article and in the cases and in the manner provided for in the law.”

If the retention at the border of the foreigner while it resolves your record of expulsion, refoulement or return, or on the admission of asylum, or while running any of those orders, is a factual situation of loss of freedom of movement, object of art. 17.1 EC. (Villaverde, 2004) [3], we wonder, ourselves, if the internment, and worse yet, it does not constitute a deprivation of liberty “in capital letters” subject to the provisions of the same article.

Although the aliens Act in force provides for the deprivation of liberty of migrants by a lack of administrative, we have the conviction that it is a law that is discriminatory and unfair to the rights of immigrants, with which we do not do more than restate what is being done in the voluntary sector in favour of the migrant community and the defensoría del pueblo español [4]: immediate closure of the CIEs to be inconstititucional and violate the fundamental rights of the people. We have the conviction, without reservation, that the fundamental right to personal liberty of the art. 17 EC is a right of the human being that would correspond equally to Spanish and foreign nationals (without distinction by their situation legal-legal), without that to these effects, the provisions of art. 13.1 EC [5] to change this circumstance. (Villaverde, 2004)

We understand, therefore, that the very existence of these centres is the result of an immigration policy of “zero tolerance”, based on the management, perpetuation, and the criminalization of irregular immigration. We denounce, therefore, the Spanish State and the countries members of the EU by the use of this instrument as a punishment for irregular immigration, and ask for its immediate closure. Apparently gives the same as the “how” and “why” are these people interned there, so it only matters “who”: it seems that the crime was the simple fact of being an immigrant. So says also the Human Rights Observatory of the University of Barcelona, who has described these Centers as “unconstitutional”, because “they stop people for who they are and not for what they have done”. The alien is “held” (and not “stopped”) [6].

In sum, the CIEs are one of the examples more identifiers of the authoritarian policy which is being carried out, both in Spain and in Europe, against irregular immigration. The States have declared a struggle disproportionately against illegal immigration, which has as consequence the violation of the fundamental rights of irregular migrants, who are in a situation of vulnerability administrative, social and economic increasingly aggravating. And as well says Pernia (2008) [7] “it Is necessary to unite all the social sensibilities against arbitrariness; advocating, in his trail of fire, violence, abuse, and death, by their closure. An administrative offense may not be paid with such a high price as the deprivation of liberty. There are many reasons to think that the time has come of the closure of these centers.”


Patricia Rivero / Sociologist

Anna Niubo / Polítologa

February 20, 2012
Also published in the diario LibreRed



[1] Martinez, M. (2011) “What is CIE? An approach to the Internment centres for foreigners in our country”. Magazine Critical. Num. 973.

[2] Pernia, L. (2008) “Detention Centres for Foreigners: Prisons undercover”. Platform of Solidarity with the immigrants from Malaga. Third press. Madrid.

[3] Villaverde, I. (2004) “The legal-constitutional detention and internment of foreign nationals on the occasion of his expulsion from the State” in PRESNO, M (coord.): Aliens and immigration: the legal and socio-economic. Tirant lo Blanch. Valencia.

[4] For more information see the 2010 annual report of the office of the ombudsman of Spain:http://www.defensordelpueblo./en/Press/media/Documents/informacion_25_07_11.pdf

[5] Article 13. 1. of the Spanish Constitution: “aliens in Spain shall enjoy the public freedoms which guarantees the present Title in the terms established by the Treaties and the law”.

[6] Document prepared by the Immigration Area of the APDHA (European Association of Human Rights) Network and euro-african Migreurop (October, 2008).

[7] Pernia, L. (2008) “Detention Centres for Foreigners: Prisons undercover”. Platform of Solidarity with the immigrants from Malaga. Third press. Madrid.

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