The Immigration Detention Center (CIE) in Málaga, the most controversial out of the 10 working in Spain, has finally closed its doors yesterday after 22 years of hardship. The last 14 inmates were transfered to other CIE’s around Spanish.
The Government, through its delegate in Málaga, announced las week the permanent closure of the center because the facility “would not allow that neither internal nor officials have decent conditions of habitability.” The closing of the CIE had been claimed by human rights NGOs almost since it opened in 1990. Over the years, many others joined the proposal, such as humanitarian organizations, ombudsmen and regional center, prosecutors, judges and even senior police officers.
The CIE, a dilapidated building since its opening in 1990, has been scene of various police controversies and irregularities. Between years 1992 and 1993, organisations, inmates and visitors reported on the lack of internal and social regulations, health services and the struggle of relatives and lawyers to carry on their visits. Besides, there were no female staff to meet inmates, neither store.
The Ombudsman witnessed that inmates remained locked daily while the courtyard was empty because there were no enough agents to guard them. Scarce cleaning and sandwich dinner, every day. A year later, 46 inmates went on hunger strike for the center scant conditions and food shortages. In June 1996 the center hit the headlines regarding the deportation by plane of 103 African immigrants previously sedated with haloperidol. The cause was eventually shelved. In 1997, the Ombudsman enounced the lack of space in the center. In 1998 there was evidence of immigrants coming by boat taken to the center without a personalized prosecution.
In 2006, the CIE went through a complete staff change. A new scandal appeared after 5 officials of the National Police received counter – allegations accused of sexually abusing inmates. Currently, The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Málaga has requested for them 27 years in prison. They are still awaiting trial.
But the center has also suffered several fires, suicides and above all, it has been branded as having facilities “worse than a prison“.
The beginning of the end arrives in February 2010 when the Unified Trade Union of Police conducted an inspection that concluded with the following statement: “We can not guarantee the life and physical integrity either of the inmates or the police.”
We can not forget that more than 43 million people worldwide have left forced their place of origin or habitual residence, running away from violence, threats and persecution. There can be many reasons: nationality, religion, race, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. Thousands of people pass every year among the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. The records are terrifying: in 2011, 198 immigrants died at the Andalusian coast according to UNHCR. Many of those who survive may end up in detention centers of this type.
There are still another 8 CIEs operating across Spain, where over the past years several human rights abuses have been observed.