Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish cities on Moroccan territory – the only two land borders between Europe and the African continent. They are part of Spain, but they are not part of the Schengen area…..
Therefore, when you arrive to Ceuta or Melilla you have still not arrived in the European zone of free movement and you have to await the permission to go to mainland Spain (the “laisser passer”) in order to continue your journey. During your stay in Ceuta or Melilla you will be accommodated in a CETI (centre for temporary stay for migrants) where a room is normally shared by ten people, and where you can only go out every day until 11pm.
Attention: Lately, there have been push backs -immediate deportation- of bigger groups back to Morocco after having crossed the fence to Ceuta or Melilla. These deportations took place after having been registered in the CETI. Only people who asked for asylum od declared themselves to be minors haven’t been pushed back. Before entering Ceuta or Melilla inform yourself if currently there are these kind of push backs and whom they are deporting.
The situation of migrants in Ceuta and Melilla is notably different from the situation in the rest of Spain in many regards:
Asylum in Ceuta and Melilla
At the moment, people applying for asylum in Ceuta have to stay in the city until a decision has been made about their asylum application. These decisions take, depending on the case and country of origin, between six months and two years. During that time you will not be able to leave the city. Therefore, most people chose to wait for their laisser passer and apply for asylum once they arrive in mainland Spain. However, asking for asylum can be means of protection for people who are in immediate risk of deportation.
The decision by the authorities not to allow asylum seekers in Ceuta to move freely in Spain is illegal. All legal appeals against this decision have been won, but they also take a long time to win.
In Ceuta it is not possible to apply for asylum at the border. In Melilla this is an option. However, the Moroccan authorities do not let people who look SubSaharan get close to the office, which means that this is only accessible for people from other parts of the world, such as people from Arab countries. Since this system has been in use, the office has not received a single asylum application from a Sub-Saharan person.
Minors in Ceuta and Melilla
A person registered in Ceuta or Melilla as a unaccompanied foreign minor (MENA) has to stay in the city until they turn 18. The conditions in the center, access to education and work, and the possibility of getting permanent documents are a lot worse than in the rest of Spain and other European countries.
Papers in Ceuta and Melilla
In Ceuta and Melilla you cannot get the civil registration (Empadronamiento) but your registration in the CETI counts as proof of your stay in Spain. This means that the time before you can apply for regularization starts when you are in the CETI (Regularisation). In Ceuta and Melilla you are not given a N.I.E. (identification number for foreigners), your identification number is the registration number from the CETI written on your card.
Attention: Keep the exit paper from the CETI and the paper that the police gave you upon your registration safe, as well as any other paper you receive once you arrive in Spain.
In general, everyone is assigned a number when they arrive to Ceuta or Melilla, and the departures to Mainland Spain (“Península”) follow the order of these numbers. If many people enter, the process to get to mainland Spain may go faster, but there are also other political factors that can either speed up or slow down the process.
The following personal factors can also affect your chances of leaving Ceuta or Melilla:
• If you are a citizen of one of the countries which have readmission agreements with Spain. Generally Moroccans and Algerians do not get the “laisser passer” unless they are families or seen as especially vulnerable.
• Sometimes Spain blocks the departures of a certain nationality for a while, when they are negotiating new agreements with the country in question, or if they want to stop the migration flow from this specific country. This has previously been successfully protested by organised groups of migrants, demanding the right to leave to the mainland.
• If you are involved in a legal process in Ceuta and Melilla you normally have to stay until the case is resolved.
• If you have been sanctioned because of inappropriate behavior inside or outside the CETI, your departure may be delayed.
• If you are registered in the Spanish or European system as previously having received an expulsion order (“orden de expulsión” - chapter 13: Glossary), it is very difficult to leave Ceuta or Melilla, as they will try to deport you. Furthermore it is very difficult to escape deportation in these small towns.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, the time you might spend in Ceuta or Melilla varies a lot, but you should expect to be there for at least two months.
Remember: Do not let the time you spend in Ceuta or Melilla be wasted. You can use this time to learn Spanish and make connections with people in Spain and Europe. Ask for solidaric associations, such as Elín in Ceuta (Contacts). Everything you learn here will help you in your future life in Europe.
When you receive your “laisser passer” and leave to mainland Spain, you will enter the same system as everyone arriving directly to the mainland. (Further steps on Mainland Spain)