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A judge prohibits more immigrants from entering the Gran Canaria detention center to avoid contagion

Image of the Center for the Internment of Foreigners (CIE) of Barranco Seco, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.Angel Medina G. / EFE

The control judge of the Barranco Seco Foreigners Internment Center (on the outskirts of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), Arcadio Díaz Tejera, has issued a car this Thursday prohibiting the entry of new immigrants into the premises, currently occupied by 42 people (29 from Mali, 10 from Senegal, two from Gambia and one from Mauritania, all from the same boat). In his opinion, this number of occupants make up the maximum allowable capacity to guarantee public health in accordance with the measures established by the Government of Spain in the fight against covid in prisons and work centers. The Barranco Seco CIE has a capacity for 112 people.

The judge explains in his car that with this measure he tries to avoid episodes such as last March, when there was “a chain contagion towards all inmates due to overcrowding” and due to the impossibility of maintaining the social distance indicated by epidemiologists. Díaz Tejera also warns that if a contagion occurs in the facilities, he will order, as he did in April, a new eviction and closure of the facilities. Against this order there is an appeal in the next five days. Regarding this possible recourse, Interior has limited itself to ensuring that it will study “all the resolutions in depth, this one too” and that it will proceed “as best appropriate for the general interest.”

Barranco Seco is an old jail built in 1934 to serve as a provincial prison. It has two floors or pavilions of rooms with their respective showers and bathrooms and toilets, two lounge areas for watching television and two dining rooms, as well as a 200-square-meter playground. In addition, in the establishment there is also a warehouse for disused vehicles of the National Police Corps and about twenty canine guides of this security body, according to the car explains: “It makes you lose many meters of the old jail” that could be destined to the prevention of contagion of covid-19, estimates Díaz Tejera.


On September 24, the Ministry of the Interior ordered the reopening of the Foreigners Internment Centers (CIE) after almost five months closed due to the pandemic and thus resumed the internment of immigrants in an irregular situation for their subsequent expulsion. Among the reopened centers were El Matorral, in Fuerteventura; Hoya Fría, in Tenerife; and east of Barranco Seco. These centers constitute a key piece in the State’s refund policy. Foreign citizens are interned in them pending the processing or execution of their expulsion, or return. Both the authorization of admission and the detention are subject to judicial control and the stay cannot be extended beyond 60 days. Those from the Canary Islands are also of special importance for the Interior because, in the midst of an upturn in arrivals, it allows them to deport sub-Saharan Africans who have left or traveled through the African country to Mauritania.

Until now (and before their closure by the covid), entry into these centers occurred more or less automatically after passing to the disposition of the investigating judge, since the only way to avoid it was for the migrant to request asylum. Until last June, this request was collected by the Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the inmates were not always informed of their right to request asylum or access to the procedure was facilitated. In September, the Court of Instruction number 4 of Santa Cruz last month became the first to apply in Spain a sjudgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union that recognizes the power of investigating judges to inform immigrants of the possibility of requesting international protection, receive that request and transfer it to the competent authority to resolve it. This measure offers migrants a new space to be informed and so that they can express their willingness to seek asylum, which in practice prevents their entry into the CIE.