Notes from a conversation with Antonio Díaz de Freijo, a Catholic priest, Director de Asociación Karíbu.

Karíbu means Welcome in Swahili

The Karibu Association exists to care of welcoming Subsaharan African immigrants in Spain, the majority of whom arrive without Spanish entry entry permits in immigrant open boats or jumping over the frontier fences of Ceuta and Melilla. Their arrival is in the majority of cases after many months and, in some cases, years of travel since they left the homeland in the search of better security and living conditions.

Antonio Díaz de Freijo agrees to send me regularly information about the Karibu Association and he provided me with a copy of Karibu’s 2016 Report on the Madrid Foreigners Internment Centre (FIC) EL INTERNAMIENTO EN EL CIE DE MADRID that describes the serious deficiencies in the treatment of the interned persons and cites the testimonies of several interned persons.

We recommend you to read EL INFORME EN CIFRAS (Facts and Figures) on las pp. 6 & 7 and the CONCLUSIONES on pp. 48 y 49 and which are translated below.

The reason for the fact that very few Syrian refugees have arrived in Spain is because these persons have the necessary qualifications and contacts to obtain better living conditions in the north of Europe where there are more facilities for immigrants.

The Spanish Government lacks a specific policy for Subsaharan immigrants. It does not have embassies in the majority of African countries and very few bilateral agreements exist.

There is no policy for voluntary repatriation of Subsaharan immigrants as there was, from the start of the crisis in 2008, with Latin American immigrants to whom the Spanish State paid in advance in a lump sum all the income due to them in relation to the taxes and social security contributions paid.

The documents that give the right to work and residency are difficult to obtain.

The residence permit is subject to a work contract. If the job is lost, the residence permit is automatically cancelled.

Without regularisation as a legal immigrant there are no official permits and without these permits there is no access to professional courses financed by the European Union since these are only available to legalised immigrants.


IN THE MADRID CIE (Centre for the Internment of Foreigners CIF)

1.  Excepting 2015, we observe that, amongst the persons visited by KARIBU, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in the internment of newly arrived persons in Spain in the Madrid CIF. With respect to Subsaharan persons, this CIF is being converted, increasingly, in a deplorable reception centre of recently arrived persons who are deprived of their liberty and whose Human Rights are violated.

2. The great majority of the persons visited by KARIBU in the Madrid CIE have been freed. This means that their stay in the CIF has not served for the sole purpose defined in the (Spanish Foreigners’ Law) Ley de Extranjería: Repatriation. In spite of not having been able to be expelled, when they are freed they remain in an irregular situation that prevents them from enjoying a normal life. Consequently, it is essential to articulate channels to favour their integration and regularisation in society.

3. Neither the personal circumstances nor the real possibility of repatriation of the internees is taken into account when they are interned. We continue to find in the CIF persons with absolutely no possibility of being expelled or persons who should never have been interned, such as minors or asylum applicants. Nor is the particular vulnerability of the foreign persons evaluated (minor sons and daughters to support, serious illnesses, gender-based violence, etc.)

3.1 When minors do not have documents that accredit their minority, the tests to determine their age should follow the UNHCR recommendations: “the evaluations should be carried out by professionals with adequate formation and experience” and “who are familiar with the ethnic and cultural background information of the child.” Additionally, “margins of error” should be incorporated and the “benefit of the doubt” should be applied when the result is not conclusive. The evaluation must be taken as soon as possible to avoid the internment of a possible minor.

3.2 With respect to asylum applicants, it must noted that the number of these applications admitted for processing remains extremely limited (only 2 out of 35 presented). Furthermore, inspite of the multiple complaints made by NGOs and by the orders of the controlling lawcourts of the CIF, the right of asylum remains non-guaranteed, as we continue to see applications that are not processed.

4.When a newly arrived person is freed they benefit from the Humanitarian Project financed by the MEYSS (Ministry of Education & Social Security). Following the situation of lack of protection that some of them have suffered without this resource, we demand the endownment of sufficient means and vacancies to avoid a repetition of this absence of resources in the future. We attribute the increase of the average duration of internment from 32 to 39 days over the last three years to the limited availability of vacancies for newly arrived persons.

5. Indiscriminate identity checks and arrests on an ethnic basis continue to take place in the street and result in the internment of the person in the CIF.

6.  Unfortuntately, the situation in the Madrid CIF has remained stagnant over several years, so that a large number of the conclusions relative to the conditions of internment stated in previous reports remain constant.

6.1 More than three years after the approval of the Operation Regulations and Interior Regime of the CIFs, these remain unfulfilled in many aspects and this affects the rights of the interned persons. Neither has the Coordination Board been constituted nor has there been any separation of persons with or without criminal records.

6.2 In the Madrid CIF the basic needs of the interned persons are not guaranteed, with respect to clothing and footwear. Healthcare presents important shortfalls and is not guaranteed 24 hours round the clock with sufficient personnel in the CIF. Additionally, there is still no sick bay, the initial medical examination is very superficial and there is no provision for psychiatric or dental attention. Access to interpreters is very limited. The inactivity due to inadequate space for leisure and the lack of any kind of activity contributes to increase stress and the anguish produced by the internment due to the possibility of deportation. It would be advisable to ensure a greater implication of the Red Cross in this aspect.

7. The African consulates play a fundamental role with respect to repatriations, since they are responsible for indentifying their nationals and providing them with a travel document for their repatriation. It concerns us that some consulates, following the proposal of the General Commissariat for Foreigners and Frontiers (Comisaría General de Extranjería y Fronteras), try to identify persons whose identity, as stated in the order of internment signed by a judge, does not correspond to the country that that consulate represents. This can mean the repatriation of the person to a different country to that which corresponds to him/her.

8. Very few persons interned in the Madrid CIF had roots in the Madrid Regional Autonomy when they were arrested and when they were freed were not able to afford the expenses of returning to their homes. The administration must articulate a support procedure for these persons as is done in other fields of deprivation of liberty.

9.  Occasionally, the interned persons transferred to Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport continue to refer to the use of force by the public officials of the provincial squads charged with executing their deportation.

10.  Their continues to exist a major information blackout of the Centres of Internment of Foreigners. The prohibition of entry to communication media, NGOs and even the representatives of public authorities is the ideal breeding ground for establishing a climate of impunity and vulneration of rights.

Notes & Translation by Hugo Castelli Eyre