Translation and explanation of key terms

Last update : November 2023

Ayuntamiento (Town Hall/Local Council): Is the administration of a city or municipality. You have to go here for all civil registration matters, especially for the empadronamiento (registration of your address in the municipal census).

CAED: The Emergency Reception and Referral Service Centres (CAED) are places dependent on the Ministry of Migration whose management has been handed over to social entities. After spending a maximum of 72 hours in the CATE, people who have recently arrived on the coast (both in the Canary Islands and on the mainland) are sent to one of these centers where their basic needs (accommodation, food, hygiene, clothing) are covered. These centers are located in areas of arrival and their function is to temporarily receive new arrivals to then be referred to other centers, whether they are humanitarian reception or international protection centers, depending on the profiles and demands of the people staying in the CAED.

CATE: The “Centros de Atención Temporal de Extranjeros” (Temporal Centers for Foreigners) are places under police custody where people arriving at ports on the Spanish coast and islands can be held for up to 72 hours after arrival, before being released or sent to a CIE.

Centro Cívico (Civil Centre): These are social centres in the different neighbourhoods where you can find free services like cultural events, courses, etc. and where you can get information on the services your neighbourhood offers.

CETI: There are two CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes/ temporary holding centre for immigrants) in Spain. One is in Ceuta and the other in Melilla. They are state-run ‘reception’ centres where adult immigrants (+18) live until they can leave the city.

CIE: The CIEs (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros / internment centres for foreign nationals) are closed centres, like a prison, where the state detains immigrants in order to deport them.

Cuenta ajena (Employment): cuenta ajena is a type of work. It is to work for a boss or a company with a contract of employment.

Cuenta propia (Self-Employment): Cuenta propia is a type of work. It is to work for yourself, for example in your own business.

Eurodac: Eurodac is the European database of the fingerprints of people who have entered Spanish soil. If someone is fingerprinted in one country, the information is also available in all the other European states.

European Residency Permit (Permiso de residencia europea): After five years of legal residence in Spain you can apply for the European Residence Permit. This permit will allow you to live and work also in other countries inside the European Union.
Expediente de expulsión (deportation file): If you are stopped by police and you are undocumented, there is always a risk of deportation. If they want to deport you, they will start by filing a deportation file. It is important you contact a lawyer immediately before there is a judge decision and an deportation order (orden de expulsión).

Expediente de expulsión (Expulsion File): If the police identify you when you find yourself in an irregular administrative situation, there is always a risk that they will try to deport you. If they try to deport you, they will start by opening an expulsion file (expediente de expulsión) against you. It is very important that you contact a lawyer immediately, before there is a court decision and a deportation order (orden de expulsión) is issued.

Extranjería: The Extranjería deals with all the legal matters of foreign nationals. So, you have to go to their offices in order to receive almost all of your papers (Tarjeta roja, residency permit, work permit etc).

Gendered violence (Violencia de género): in Spain violence done by men against women because she is a woman is considered in law as “Violencia de Género”. It can be physical, sexual or psychological violence. It is also used in the context of marriage and the family and every woman can report it and seek help.

Guardia Civil (Civil Guard): The Guardia Civil is a nationwide force with police-like authority. One of their duties, together with Spanish National Police, is border control.

Human Trafficking (Trata de personas): the act of moving people against their will, by coercion or violence. Someone who is a victim of trafficking has the right of protection in Spain and in Europe so that they can escape from the traffickers.

Humanitarian Protection (Protección Humanitaria): “Protección Humanitaria” is not officially a form of international protection. It means that for humanitarian reasons you cannot be deported to your country and they grant you residency for one year. But when the situation changes in your country, you can be deported.

Laissez-Passer: A Laissez-passer is permission to cross the border when you haven’t got the legal documents which give you permission to cross. In Spain they are mostly used in Ceuta and Melilla so you can leave those cities.

Mainland Spain / Península: When in Spain someone speaks of the “Península” they refer to the part of the European continent that is Spain, in other words, Spain without Ceuta, Melilla, and the islands.

MENA: MENA (Menores extranjeros no acompañados) are minors (under 18) who arrived in Spain without their parents or other legal guardians.

N.I.E.: The N.I.E. (Número de Identificación para Extranjeros) is the identification number for foreign nationals in Spain. You receive it when you are registered.

NGO (ONG): NGOs (in Spanish: Organizaciones No-Gubernamentales - ONG) are non-governmental organisations. In Spain they are in charge of a large amount of the social welfare of immigrants. Some of the biggest are, e.g., the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and CEAR.

Orden de devolución (Return Order): An immigrant receives an Orden de Devolución (a return order) when they have entered Spain in an irregular manner (without papers).

Orden de expulsión (Deportation Order): When you get into a police control and you don’t “have papers” it’s possible that you get an expulsion order. While this paper is valid authorities can try to deport you to your home country.

Schengen: the Schengen area is the area of free movement of the European Union. It is made up of 26 states: the member states of the European Union (except for the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania) as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It should mean that the borders between states which are signatories to the Schengen agreement are open. Nevertheless, recently they have put up arbitrary controls on their borders to control the movement of nationals from countries outside of the European Union.

Smuggling (of migrants) (Tráfico de personas): the act of moving people across borders illegally for money. It is a criminal act and can be punished with prison time of some years.

Subsidiary Protection (Protección Subsidiaria): “Protección Subsidiaria” is a form of international protection different from asylum. If in response to your asylum claim you receive Protección Subsidiaria you also receive residency, but it has to be renewed.

Tarjeta Blanca (White Card): The “Tarjeta Blanca” is a provisional document that identifies you as an asylum seeker in Spain before you receive the “Tarjeta Roja” (Red Card). This document is officially known as “Documento Acreditativo de la Condición de Solicitante en Tramitación de Protección Internacional”. It is the first document you are given after the interview with the National Police.

Tarjeta Roja (Red Card): The “Tarjeta Roja” is the document which identifies you as an asylum seeker in Spain. With it you can travel within Spanish territory (except for Ceuta and Melilla!) but you cannot cross the border to other countries.

Tarjeta Sanitaria (Health Card): With this card you can access public health services like every Spaniard. But to receive it it is necessary to register yourself at the municipal census (to get your empadronamiento at the Ayuntamiento).