Who is eligible for seeking international protection in Spain?
Spain's Regulatory Act 12/2009 on the Right to Asylum and Subsidiary Protection in Spain accords refugee status to anyone with a justified fear of persecution in their own country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political views or belonging to a specific social group, gender or sexual orientation.
It also recognises as stateless any person who has no nationality, is outside their country of normal residence and either does not wish or is unable to return to that country for any of the above reasons.
Where can I submit my application for asylum?
At any border checkpoint in Spanish territory, at ports and airports; at any asylum and refuge office (OAR); and any immigrant detention centre (CIE).
The Barcelona Asylum and Refuge Office (OAR) is at Passeig de Sant Joan, nº 189. Metro L4 Joanic (yellow line).
Can I claim asylum from abroad?
Spain's Asylum Act provides for the possibility of Spanish ambassadors abroad being able to arrange the transfer of an applicant for international protection who has turned to diplomatic representation and claimed danger to life and limb, providing they are not a national of the country they are currently in.
What are the procedural steps for claiming asylum?
The first step is to book an appointment for a personal interview at Barcelona's Asylum and Refuge Office (OAR). During your interview you will basically be asked about your identity, how you managed to get to Spain and the reasons for your persecution. Staff there have to know what you have been through if they are to help you. You can produce supporting documents during your interview or throughout the entire process.
The OAR will decide within a period of one month whether or not to process your claim. If you have made your claim at a border checkpoint, the authorities have four days to make their decision.
Note that, under the Dublin Convention, it is the first European Union member state which an asylum seeker gets to that is responsible for processing their asylum application. So, if you are registered in Spain, you will not be able to claim asylum in another country.
Is the process confidential?
The entire process is confidential and anyone who speaks to you (civil servants, police, interpreters, lawyers) is under a legal obligation to keep everything you say in strict confidence.
Only the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) is informed of your claim. The government of your country of origin or provenance will never be informed of your application for international protection in Spain. Nor can you be returned to your country of origin or provenance until a decision has been taken regarding your case.
Can I receive help from a lawyer or interpreter?
Yes. Asylum seekers are entitled to free legal aid and an interpreter.
The Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER), part of Barcelona City Council, will advise you on how to present your case, help you to prepare your supporting documents and prepare you for your interview.
Both SAIER and the Free Justice Procedure Service (SERTRA) offered by the Barcelona Lawyers' Association can provide you with assistance during your interview at the Asylum and Refuge Office (OAR). So can other associations, such as ACCEM and the Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR).
What does my claim for asylum entitle me to?
Claiming asylum entitles you to remain in Spain while your application is being processed, halt any removal or expulsion procedure that may concern you, receive legal aid and health care, receive specific social benefits and be documented as an applicant for international protection.
What documents will I receive
The first document you will receive is the interview diligencia, which certifies that you already have an appointment with the OAR to start the asylum claim process.
Once you have completed your interview at the OAR, you will receive a white document containing your personal details and photograph and certifying that you are entitled to remain in Spain until a decision is made over the need for your asylum application to be examined here. As soon as your application has been accepted, you will receive a red document, which will be valid and renewable for 3 to 6 months. Once this 6-month period is over, you will receive a permit to work in Spain.
Applicants for stateless status will receive a green document bearing their photo and foreign resident ID number (NIE), but they will not receive a work permit.
What social benefits will I receive?
The Spanish government has a social welfare programme for asylum seekers without financial resources which covers their basic needs - accommodation, upkeep, counselling and social care - for a period of six months from the submission of their claim for asylum.
You must bear in mind, however, that you cannot choose your place of residence. This is a decision taken by the Spanish government according to the availability of places in its network of reception centres.
Who takes the decision on my case and when?
The Spanish government is the sole authority with jurisdiction over asylum and refuge. Your case will be decided by Spain's Ministry of the Interior, on the initiative of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Asylum and Refuge (CIAR).
Once your application has been accepted for processing, a decision on it ought to be reached within a maximum period of six months. However, the process usually lasts longer. If there is a delay, the authorities must inform you of the reason. Remember that you are entitled to consult your file.
What is subsidiary protection?
Subsidiary protection is granted to individuals who are unable to return to their country of origin as they would face a real risk of suffering serious harm, such as the death penalty or execution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or serious threats to life and limb, owing to a situation of indiscriminate violence caused by circumstances of internal or international conflict.
Am I entitled to family reunification?
Under Spanish law right to asylum or subsidiary protection covers the spouse or partner of any beneficiary of international protection, children under majority age and parents, providing the latter have proof of dependency and the same nationality. It may also be granted to other families where there is proof of dependency and previous co-habitation in their country of origin.
If I obtain international protection, does that include nationality too?
No, but if you gain refugee status the access time lines are shortened and you can apply for it within five years.
How many people have applied for asylum in Spain?
Spain received over 10,000 applications for international protection during the first nine months of 2015. It dealt with 5,952 applications in 2014, representing 0.9% of the total number of applications submitted within all 28 member states of the European Union.
How many people have been granted protection?
There are 5,798 refugees and 7,535 asylum seekers residing in Spain, according to UNHCR data in 2014. Spain's Ministry of Interior granted international protection to 1,585 individuals this year, while denying it to 2,070 other applicants. That means it accepted 43.3% of the asylum applications it received and rejected 56.7%.
What happens if my application for asylum is rejected?
In that case you will have to leave Spain, unless you have some form of residence permit. You may also appeal against the rejection of your application before a court.