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Controversy surrounds Barcelona’s Immigrant Internment Centre after an intern’s death last January

The death of a Guinean intern in the Immigrant Internment Centre (CIE) in Barcelona last January, plus the recent prohibition by the Spanish Government’s Delegate in Catalonia to allow the Catalan Ombudsman to visit the facilities of the centre, a month ago, has increased the feeling of distrust towards this type of institutions where immigrants without their residence permit are preventively held until they are sent back to their original countries.

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25 May 2012 01:46 AM

by

ACN / Alberto Fernández

Barcelona (CNA).- The Immigrant Internment Centres (CIE) are not penitentiary centres, but public institutions where immigrants without their residence permit are preventively held until they are deported back to their original countries. However, the death of a Guinean intern last January in the Zona Franca CIE, in Barcelona, the same centre where an intern killed himself a few months before, has caused a big impact in Catalan society, especially among organisations defending Human Rights. Moreover, the recent prohibition of the Spanish Government\u2019s Delegate in Catalonia to the Catalan Ombudsman to visit the facilities of the centre has increased even more the feeling of distrust with regard to this type of institutions. Besides, Spanish Police announced that the Immigrant Internment Centres will make interns with criminal records their priority in order to guarantee their expulsion in 60 days. The debate is wide open.


Controversy surrounds the Immigrant Internment Centres (CIE) in Barcelona. These public institutions, where illegal immigrants are preventatively held until they are deported back to their original country, have come in for a lot of criticism, especially after the death of a Guinean intern in the Zona Franca CIE on January 6th. A few months before, in May 2011, another intern killed himself.

After that, the Spanish Ombudsman visited the facilities of the centre and wrote a report about the interns\u2019 conditions in the Zona Franca CIE (called after the industrial district in Barcelona where the centre is emplaced). The report uncovered a lot of faults in the services offered, such health care or safety measures. Actually, the Spanish Ombudsman text even talked about abuses of authority and referred to some interns with signs of violence. Of course, none of them report anything.

Despite the fact that the law says these are not penitentiary centres, NGOs and Human Rights defenders demand greater transparency and ask questions about the methods used in this type of institutions, in order to improve the interns\u2019 conditions.

Catalan Ombudsman entrance denied

Instead of satisfying demands for transparency, the CIE of the Zona Franca denied the entrance to the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, when tried to visit the facilities of the centre, last April. Although Ribó has the powers to get in according to the current legislation, the Spanish Government\u2019s Delegate in Catalonia, Maria de los Llanos de Luna, rejected his proposal arguing it was \u201Cnot necessary to come in\u201D because everything was \u201Cfine\u201D.

Ribó went to the CIE accompanied with his assistant, Jordi Sánchez, members of the Torture Preventions Group, former Catalonia\u2019s Director of the Public Prosecutors Office, José Mª Mena, Law professor Jaume Serra and consultant Mar Torrecillas. When they arrived, they met the people in charge of the center, who told them not to come in. After that, Rafael Ribó considered the prohibition \u201Cinappropriate\u201D for a democratic system.

The Catalan Ombudsman assured that he went to the CIE, first of all, because the law allows him, but also because of recent complains about the treatment received by interns at the centre. For that reason, Ribó will expose this situation before the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Government and, if necessary, the United Nations Office in Geneva, where he takes part as a representative of European Ombudsmen. Rafael Ribó has never been allowed to visit this CIE, even though he has tried on repeated times.

Llanos de Luna assures the Zona Franca CIE \u201Chas nothing to hide\u201D

The Spanish Government\u2019s Delegate in Catalonia, Maria de los Llanos de Luna, declared that the Zona Franca CIE \u201Chas nothing to hide\u201D even though the Ombudsman was not allowed to visit the facilities of the centre. In response to Rafael Ribó\u2019s criticism, Llanos de Luna issued a communiqué asking him \u201Cfor institutional respect\u201D and stating that \u201Che has no competence in bodies managed by the General Administration of the State\u201D (which means directly managed by the Spanish Government).

On the other hand, Llanos de Luna has assured that she \u201Cwould not have any problem to show these facilities to the United Nations representative if necessary\u201D and advanced that the Spanish Government is drawing up new regulations to allow the NGOs to help administrate the CIEs.

For the record, during last year, in the Zona Franca centre two interns died and another group declared a hunger strike to denounce their situation.

The Catalan Government supports Ribó and criticises Llanos de Luna for not allowing him to visit the CIE

Catalan Government\u2019s Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, has offered \u201Call the support\u201D from the Executive to the Catalan Ombudsman and has criticizsd the Spanish Government Delegate in Catalonia, Maria de los Llanos de Luna, for not allowing Ribó to visit the Zona Franca CIE.

Homs, who branded the incident as \u201Cunfortunate\u201D, remarked that visiting the centre is one of the Catalan Ombudsman functions established by the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (Catalonia\u2019s main law) and that is why Homs does not \u201Cunderstand\u201D Llanos de Luna\u2019s behaviour.

As a Government institution, Homs offered Ribó all his support in this and \u201Cother any actions he would like to carry out\u201D.

The public prosecutor, the TSJC and the Catalan Ombudsman will share information about the Zona Franca CIE

In order to throw light on the Zona Franca CIE controversy, Ribó met the President of the Catalan High Court (TSJC), Miguel Ángel Gimeno and they agreed that the Catalan Ombudsman, the TSJC and the public prosecutor\u2019s office will share all the information about the centre at their disposal.

The Spanish Police will make immigrants with criminal records their priority in order to guarantee their expulsion

Besides, Spanish Police announced that the Immigrant Internment Centres will make interns with criminal records their priority in order to guarantee their expulsion in 60 days. This is the new criteria that the Spanish Police will follow from next summer, as the Spanish Deputy Minister for Security, Ignacio Ulloa, explained during his last visit to the CIE at the Zona Franca. Ulloa asked NGO\u2019s as well for more support regarding social work.

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  • A corridor in the Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)

  • Interns at the Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)

  • A sleeping room in Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)

  • A corridor in the Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)
  • Interns at the Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)
  • A sleeping room in Zona Franca CIE (by E. Rosanas)