Barcelona closes the Immigrant Detention Centre, but Spain immediately orders its reopening
Barcelona’s City Hall has found a legal stratagem for not reopening the Immigrant Detention Centre (CIE), which closed in October for renovation works. The CIE, located in Barcelona’s industrial ‘Zona Franca’ area, didn’t have the correct activity licence nor comply with fire regulations and thus the Catalan capital called for the Spanish Ministry for Affairs, the body responsible for the centre, to cease the CIE’s activity. However, the Delegation of the Spanish Government to Catalonia has announced in a communiqué the reopening of the CIE once the works are done and that the judicial services will appeal Barcelona City Hall’s decision. Before hearing about the reopening notice, Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Jaume Asens, stated that if the Ministry refuses the order and reopens the CIE “coercive measures” such as fines or “sealing off the centre” will have to be put in place.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Immigrant Detention Centre (CIE) in Barcelona’s industrial ‘Zona Franca’ area has today been at the centre of a controversy between Barcelona’s City Hall and the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs. This morning, the Catalan capital confirmed that they will order the activities of the CIE to cease, a centre which depends on the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs and which is currently closed due to renovation works. The official reason for not reopening the centre is that it doesn’t have the correct activity licence nor comply with fire regulations. However, soon after the announcement, Spain’s executive confirmed the reopening of the CIE once the renovation works are done. The CIE is seen as a racist institution by many sectors of Catalan society and even Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Jaume Asens considers the CIE “a black hole of democracy”.
According to Asens, the CIE has been “beyond the law” since it was first set up. It was a police station in 1992 and although renovation works were carried out between 2004 and 2005, it kept its police station licence, which included attributes such as a gym and a stable.
Besides the lack of an appropriate licence, Asens explained that the centre doesn’t have an emergency nor an evacuation plan, according to a report made by Barcelona’s firefighters just before the start of the renovation works, 8 months ago. Thus, Asens defined it as a “black hole of democracy”.
Before hearing about the reopening notice, Asens, stated that if the Ministry refuses the order and reopens the CIE “coercive measures” such as fines or “sealing off the centre” will have to be put in place.
Spanish Government to reopen the CIE
Sources at the Spanish Delegation to Catalonia told the CNA that on the 5th of May they received a notice from Barcelona’s City Hall calling for the regulation of the CIE within a month, which would leave them 15 days to present any appeals.
On the 23rd of May, the Spanish Government did present appeals, arguing that these kinds of centres were not subject to license, since they are public police institutions and therefore don’t have any economic, commercial nor business component. The letter also stated that Barcelona’s City Hall didn’t mention the particular law which had allegedly been violated by the Spanish Government.
“A racist institution”
The platform ‘Tanquem els CIE’ (‘Let’s Close the CIE’) has repeatedly asked for the centre to be closed, denouncing human rights abuses, uncovering the hidden reality of the CIE and taking torture cases to court.
‘Tanquem els CIE’ celebrated the news and called for the decision to go “beyond symbolism” and urged “concrete facts”. The platform also pointed out that although Barcelona’s City Hall isn’t allowing the centre to reopen for technical reasons, it has to be closed especially because “it criminalises the immigrants and denies them freedom”.
“It is a racist institution and the spearhead of a deportation system which starts with racists raids and end ups with the flights of shame”, stated the platform in a communiqué.
In June, as a result of the popular rejection of the CIE, the Catalan Parliament approved a motion to call on the Spanish Government to close the centre. All Catalan parties, with the exception of the People’s Party (PP) and Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’ voted in favour of the motion. The text considered the need to start “as soon as possible a process to gradually close all immigrant detention centres” given that “the European Directive (Directive 2008/115/CE of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe of 16 December, relating to common rules and procedures for Member States in returning illegally staying nationals of third countries) does not demand the existence of such centres”.