hrw logo 200Milan. - Asylum seekers and other migrants arriving by sea to Spanish shores are held in poor conditions and face obstacles in applying for asylum. They are held for days in dark, dank cells in police stations and almost certainly will then automatically be placed in longer-term immigration detention facilities pending deportation that may never happen, Human Rights Watch reported on Monday.

"Dark, cage-like police cells are no place to hold asylum seekers and migrants who reach Spain," said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Spain is violating migrants’ rights, and there is no evidence it serves as a deterrent to others.”

The number of asylum seekers and other migrants crossing the western Mediterranean to Spain is increasing. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 7,847 people reached Spanish shores between January 1 and July 26, 2017, compared with 2,476 during the same period in 2016.

Although the numbers pale in comparison to the 94,445 people disembarked in Italy during the first seven months of 2017, Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido cited “important pressure” on Spanish ports in rejecting Italy’s recent request to have some of the people rescued in the central Mediterranean taken to Spain.

Almost all adults and children traveling with a family member arriving to mainland Spain by boat are detained for up to 72 hours in police facilities for identification and processing. The majority of adult men and women are then sent to an immigration detention center for a maximum of 60 days, pending deportation. If they cannot be deported they are released but have no legal right to remain and are under obligation to leave the country.

Conditions in police facilities in Motril, Almería, and Málaga, which Human Rights Watch visited in May, are substandard, Human Rights Watch found. The facilities in Motril and Almería have large, poorly lit cells with thin mattresses on the floor, while Málaga police station has an underground jail with no natural light or ventilation.

In Motril, women and children are placed separately in the one cell with bunk beds. In Málaga and Motril, the cells have thick vertical bars while in Almeria, the cells are separated from the hallway by tightly woven steel grills. Detainees are locked inside at all times, and taken out only for medical checks, fingerprinting, interviews and, in Almería and Málaga, to go to the bathroom because there are none inside the cells. Although there are outside, enclosed spaces in Almería and Motril, immigration detainees are not allowed to use them. The Spanish Red Cross is present at all disembarkations to do basic medical screening and provide hygiene kits. Men are not provided toothbrushes on the grounds they may be used as weapons.