Increased asylum applications, the lack of a multilevel governance model and scarce resources are the main problems with Spain’s asylum system
Challenges and limitations of Spain’s international protection reception system
The NIEM 2020 report, led in Spain by CIDOB, examines the Spanish international protection reception system (SAPI in its Spanish initials). Spain is the European country where asylum claims have risen most, with 115.190 new claims in 2019. SAPI has attempted to adapt to this increase and its implications in terms of reception and integration requirements by increasing capacity (in terms of the number of entities involved, places available and staff employed) and making the reception pathway more flexible (moving from two to three phases). However, Francesco Pasetti, CIDOB Researcher and coordinator of this report says that “the response falls short of the new demand”. The data confirm the trends noted in 2017: despite an open, favourable legal framework (84 out of 100), in practice the Spanish asylum system is unable to guarantee reception and integration standards for all. The main problems relate to the policy framework (61 out of 100), where operational regulation is lacking, and above all the implementation phase (34.5 out of 100), where the lack of resources and other factors stand out, like inadequate staff training to meet specific and diversified needs. As Francesco Pasetti points out, “an effective reception governance model inevitably involves the inclusion of regional and municipal actors and a more extensive cooperation and planning framework that is able to channel the solidarity shown by Spanish society”.
International protection reception systems in Europe: a comparative view
The NIEM 2020 report presents a comparative analysis of the 14 countries under study. The data underline that the regulatory dimension is the most positive aspect of Europe’s national reception systems (scoring 69.4 out of 100). In most of the areas analysed, from inclusion in the labour market to linguistic integration, member states guarantee asylum seekers access to rights, resources and services on equal terms with the rest of the population. However, “as we move away from the legal framework on paper and towards activities carried out in practice, national reception systems become more deficient and problematic”, says Pasetti. The main problems with the policy framework (47.1 out of 100) relate to administrative barriers and costs that undermine equality of treatment and worsen the levels of insecurity of people seeking and benefiting from international protection. The most serious problems, however, concern the implementation phase (31.1 out of 100), the stage at which the measures established in the legal framework and developed in the executive documents are implemented.
Ceuta and Melilla: from asylum at the border to asylum boundaries?
The report also examines the dynamics and problems around access to international protection in Ceuta (Tarajal)and Melilla (Beni-Enzar), and highlights the low number of asylum applications at both border posts. The study suggests two possible causes: discriminatory practices by border institutions (which restrict opportunities to access asylum based on skin colour); and devoluciones en caliente (so-called “hot returns” legalised in 2015) of irregular arrivals in Ceuta and Melilla, which end up, de facto, denying migrants of Sub-Saharan origin access to the right to asylum.
LGTBI Refugees in Spain
The 2020 NIEMreport highlights the shortcomings of the Spanish asylum and reception system when dealing with LGTBI refugees and asylum seekers. The lack of specific training of evaluators in matters of sex/gender diversity and intercultural skills stands out, along with inadequate information on countries of origin and the persistence of stereotypes. The report states that LGTBI refugees are exposed to discrimination arising not only from their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but also from the intersection of these factors with other bases of inequality such as age, race or ethnic origin, and religion. This discrimination is particularly evident in access to the labour market, housing and healthcare, and especially affects trans people, due to their corporeal visibility.
The report is completed by a chapter dedicated to the recent health emergency caused by COVID-19 and its impact on both the Spanish asylum system and the lives of asylum seekers and refugees, and presents the results of a survey on residency pathways for asylum seekers in Catalonia.
About the NIEM project
The NIEM project, led in Spain by CIDOB, aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of the integration processes of international protection applicants and beneficiaries in 14 EU member states: Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. It uses a system of 173 indicators to assess, on a scale of 0 to 100, the extent to which national reception systems comply with the main European and international standards in the fields of asylum, integration and human rights. Project partners include both academic institutions and non-governmental organisations, led by the Institute of Public Affairs in Poland.
>> Read the report Sobre los solicitantes y beneficiarios de protección internacional. Informe Nacional para España, NIEM 2020 here.
>> Visit the project website here.