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March 26, 2014
March 26, 2014

Spain: CIEs* – The regulation of shame or the normalisation of racism

Author: Patricia Orejudo Translator: Anna Papoutsi
Source: El Diario  Category: Borders
This article is also available in: elespt-pt
Spain: CIEs* – The regulation of shame or the normalisation of racism

On March 15, the Official State Bulletin published the Royal Decree approving the Regulation for the functioning and internal regime of Detention centres for migrants (CIEs).

The Explanatory Memorandum justifies the Regulation as “opportune”, indicates that it has been adopted “taking into account the experience gained through the implementation of these centres” and asserts that the Regulation provides a “detailed treatment of the various aspects of the conditions under which the detention should occur, aiming at the increased assurances for the migrants.

Why, then, numerous organisations defending human rights characterise it as “Regulation of Shame”? There are good reasons for that.

Opportune? For whom?

The CIEs first emerged in 1985. They have been in existence for 29 years without a specific regulation. This lack of regulation meant a clear violation of the law for the past 5 years, since, in the reform of 2009, the Immigration Act ordered the Government to regulate the CIEs within 6 months. But it’s been 5 years without an opportune time which seems to have finally come.

It is no coincidence that the regulation is adopted at a time when cases of scandalous violation of rights, of abuse, assaults and deaths inside the CIEs start to become known and reach the justice system.

Nor is the distraction the Regulation offers to the government negligible, at a time when it needs so badly a facelift after the tragic deaths of migrants at the shores of Ceuta.

The Royal Academy of Language defines as opportune what is done in timely fashion and when it is suitable. And yes, now the Regulation suits our government in need of a dramatic effect. It is well understood that the Government finds, in the publication of this Regulation, a good opportunity. For whom? For itself of course.

Change so that nothing changes

What the Regulation presents as “novelty” is the distinction between two areas: the area of security, in the hands of the police, and that of health care, to be provided by other entities, public and private.

It would, indeed, be a novelty, if the management of these centres, of a -supposedly- non-penitentiary character, went to the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Equality.

But this government is not interested in this kind of novelty. The idea of policing of the detainees which, coupled with the argument that the migrants are sent to the CIEs for security reasons, promotes the -not at all innocent- association of migration with criminality, results much more profitable for them.

The novelty, thus, fades away after the indication that the above mentioned entities will work “under the direct authority of the director”, that is, a National Police Force official. A tricky pirouette that leads to the same point.

The bad experience acquired. More of the same

The fact that the Regulation allows the General Directorate of Police –and it is not a joke- to assign the health care (specialised and emergency) and the social services of each CIE to public entities, non-governmental and other non-profit organisations, but also to private companies, far from yielding improvements, consolidates a practice that has proved perverse.

The experience acquired called for a real, radical change. Because what the reality reveals is that, under a privatised health service and the presence of Red Cross in Aluche, a young woman, Martine Samba, died due to inadequate care. Samba, seriously ill, did not receive proper medical care and had an interpreter only in one out of ten times she visited the health service to ask for help. The Provincial Court of Madrid, ordering the reopening of her case, said that “had she been properly treated, the fatal outcome could have been prevented”.

It should be reminded again that the state is responsible for the health and the physical integrity of persons deprived of their freedom. And this responsibility can only be assumed and guaranteed by publicly owned services. It is absurd to assign it to entities whose primary purpose is profit, or to non-governmental organisations whose ineffectiveness, as indicated by their trajectory -and logic-, is directly proportional to the amount of subsidies they are muzzled with (Red Cross has been working for years in the Aluche CIE. In 2010, this organisation received a direct grant of €210,932.08 for the “comprehensive care of detained persons” and, in particular, for financing the “involvement with all detained people, especially in interpreting, in their relations with the outside world or the document processing”).

The treatment of detention, neither detailed nor guaranteeing

The fact that the Regulation has gathered a list of rights does not mean that they will be actually guaranteed. The Immigration Act, which is of higher range than this new Regulation, already contains that list. And there is not a single right in that list that has not been violated. Not one.

The Agreements issued in recent years by various Courts monitoring CIEs reveal that the recognition of rights is a dead letter if there is not a genuine will to guarantee them. Of course, the Regulation has not included these Agreements, because how can it do so without blushing? How can it recognise that what happens in the CIEs is the cause and effect of a dehumanised conception of migrants?

An example: the right of the detainees not to be subjected to degrading treatment is recognised, at least formally. But the courts of Madrid have had to command the CIE direction to open the cell doors to detainees who need the bathroom during the night. The inclusion of this Agreement would be the documented proof of how wretched those who forced the detainees to relieve themselves in the cell itself and in front of fellow prisoners can be.

Regulate the disgrace

The mere existence of centres where persons are deprived of their liberty, not because they have committed a crime but because they are poor and migrants and have not a residence permit, ensures for us a prominent place in the universal history of disgrace. And regulating these spaces will not legitimise them. It is no exaggeration to recall, in this context, other laws, adopted in other times and places, which were no less unjust, racist and criminal, just because of the fact that they were laws. So, above all other considerations, there is a fundamental reason to describe this rule as a Regulation of Shame: it tries to regulate and thus cover with an impossible legitimacy, something which by no means should even exist.

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