rights and possibilities in case of detention

Last update : January 2020

In case you are arrested by the police you have the following rights:…..

  1. The right to be informed of the reasons for your detention.
  2. The right to call a lawyer, a friend or family. These friends can also be a local organisation to inform them about your detention.
  3. The right to an interpreter if you don’t speak Spanish very well.
  4. The right to a lawyer: usually you will be assigned a free lawyer (abogado de oficio) if you don’t have the resources to hire a private lawyer. Ask these lawyers if they are in the system of free lawyers. The support organisations also have free lawyers. Contact them because they have a lot of experience in migration law.
  5. The right to health care if you are sick or injured.
  6. The right to remain silent. You have the right to wait to make statement until you are in court because the police can use this statement against you.
  7. The right to “habeas corpus”, which means that they have to bring you to court as soon as possible. You should only use this right if you have been illegally arrested or in case you have been badly treated by the police during your detention.
  8. The right to not be kept in the police station for more than 72 hours. Before this time or when the 72 hours are up, they have to set you free or start a court case against you. (or deport you, see chapter 10.3 Deportation)

Attention: Time flies. Your lawyer has 48 hours from your arrest to present arguments against your detention or deportation. For this your lawyer needs to know:

  1. If you have already applied for asylum, if you want to apply and the reasons why you want this.
  2. Information about your current situation in Spain as registration, work, etc
  3. If you have family in Spain with legal status or children who go to school.
  4. If you belong to an association and have done some education in Spain.
    It is best to have all these documents always ready so you can show this to your lawyer in case you are arrested. It is recommended to keep a folder with the documents or copies with family or friends and inform your lawyer about this so they can get in touch with them.

For women: it is very important to inform your lawyer if you are pregnant. If you trust them you should inform them if you are a victim of gender based violence (guide-chapter 13: Glossary) or human trafficking (guide-chapter 13: Glossary) because this can protect you against deportation.

Remember: it is very important to know the full name and telephone number of your lawyer so you can contact them immediately and that they know your number and full name too. It is important to have a lawyer you trust, so try to find a free lawyer with the support organisations before there is an emergency.

Detention Centers (CIEs)

The CIES are detention centers where they keep people without papers to finish the deportation procedure. The maximum time you can be kept in a CIE is 60 days. If they have not deported you within this time they have to set you free and cannot arrest you again. There are many reasons that can prevent your deportation during these 60 days.


► You don’t have a passport and your country doesn’t accept people without papers.

► Asking for asylum. You can apply for asylum any time in the CIE. Talk to your lawyer to ask when to apply.

► During the first 48 hours your lawyer presents documents that stop/postpone your deportation.

► You are suffering from a recognised disease/handicap (physical or mental) that prevents your deportation.

It is very important that people close to you and your lawyer are informed that you are in the CIE from the first moment, so they are able to support you. If you don’t have a lawyer, you have the right to get a lawyer for free to defend you.

Your family can visit you in the CIE and you have access to a public phone (you will need cash for that). You should find out about the support organisations in the CIE, who can help you to protect your rights. There are several organisations all over Spain who are fighting a campaign against the CIEs (APDHA, SOS Racismo, CIEs NO, SJME and others). If you think you, or a friend of yours might be sent to a CIE you can contact them to get information and support. You can also join the struggle.

REMEMBER It is illegal to keep you in a CIE for more than 60 days during your whole stay in Spain. This means that if you get arrested one time for 40 days, the next time they can keep you in a CIE for no more than 20 days. This doesn’t mean that the authorities won’t try to keep you longer. Fight for your rights!

guide-legal questions.pdf