Arrival by Sea
In the following we will explain to you the procedure applied when you arrive at the Spanish coastline by boat/toy from Morocco.
There are several actors that can be involved in the search and rescue operations organized by the Spanish authorities, including: Salvamento Marítimo (the Spanish Sea Rescue Organization), the maritime service of the Guardia Civil (- chapter 13: Glossary) and Frontex, the European Agency for border control. Don’t be surprised if when you are being rescued there’s Guardia Civil or police present. During the rescue operation it’s very important to follow the instructions of the crew members to make sure everyone is safe. Normally, they save children first, women second and men afterwards.
Remember: If your boat is in destress you can contact the Alarm Phone organization so they can call for authorities to save you. More Info here
Reception and Assistance
After being rescued you will be transferred to a Spanish port. This might take several days. At the port, you will receive basic humanitarian assistance before you are taken to the police department to be identified. Up until the moment of your identification you are under the custody of the Guardia Civil. Don’t worry if they ask you to hand in your mobile phone, charger, money, etc. and to put it in a plastic bag. You will be able to recover everything once your identification is finished.
At the port, and after the Guardia Civil gives permission, the Red Cross (Spanish: “Cruz Roja”) will act: They will provide you with humanitarian assistance (a blanket, dry clothes and some food) and medical care (they will do a short examination of your state of health, attend any recent injuries and send pregnant women, or severe cases, to the hospital).
At the port, you should also find the UNHCR (United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees). They wear a blue jacket, with “ACNUR” written in white letters on the back. If you are thinking about asking for asylum they can inform you about how and where to do it.
Remember: If you are a minor it is very important to say it right away in order to protect your rights.
You will be identified by the National Police, normally at the Police Department. For the identification they will take your fingerprints, a photograph and personal data. If there are doubts that you are really underage, they will do an age test by measuring your bones.
Remember: The whole process, from the moment you arrive at the port until your identification by the police, mustn’t take more than 72 hours. At the end of this time they must hand your belongings back to you and hand you a paper with your identification number, the N.I.E. (- chapter 3.4.1. The N.I.E.)
Attention: During the whole process you have the right to be accompanied by an interpreter and a lawyer who will inform you about your options and about the possibility to ask for asylum. Don’t sign any document you don’t fully understand.
After your identification is finished there are several possibilities:
1. You remain in detention and they send you to a CIE (Immigration Detention Center) and try to deport you. Read about your rights and options in this situation here
2. Your detention ends and
• If you are a minor you will be send to a center for unaccompanied minors where you can live. At the centres are social workers who can help you with your next steps.
• For adults there are temporary reception centres all over Spain where you will be sent and where you can stay 3-5 days. Afterwards the organization running the centre normally pays you for a bus ticket to another Spanish City.
• Unfortunately, it is also possible that after identification the Police will release you without any further place to go and you will be left in the street. If this happens to you, make contact immediately with support structures for migrants in order to find a place to stay (Contacts
Further steps on Mainland Spain
In the past, people who arrived in Mainland Spain would be accommodated by an NGO (Non Governmental Organization, Spanish: ONG) who would facilitate humanitarian programs for up to three months. However, lately not everyone has had this chance. If you are not accommodated, but left in the street, you should immediately contact friends or a local migrants’ support group in order to inform them about your situation and find accommodation.
The NGO/ONG that hosts you is supposed to provide Spanish lessons and information about your options in Spain. They can also help you to manage your civil registration empadronamiento (Empadronamiento), your tarjeta sanitaria (Health card) and some can even help you process your passport.
If you apply for asylum, you have the right to stay in an accommodation center whilst your application is being processed. These programs last for at least 12 months, and the only way to be allowed in, is if you are a refugee or asylum seeker. If you are granted asylum you can continue in the program. If you are denied asylum, or if your process is still ongoing, when the time you were granted is over, you will have to leave the program.
Sometimes the NGOs do not fulfill their responsibility and leave you in the streets. Make sure BEFORE the day you have to leave your accommodation that you have somewhere else to go. If you apply for asylum more than one month after your arrival, your right to further accommodation is not guaranteed.
Remember: Being in close contact with the people working with the NGO can open many doors for you. Talk to them whenever you have the chance!
Attention: If you leave the NGO voluntarily, your right to be accommodated by a state program is not guaranteed any more. If you have been in Spain previously and had your fingerprints taken, you might not be accepted in any program.
Going to another city
If you are sent to a small village, or a city where you do not want to stay, contact the people working with your NGO, and try to arrange to move to another place for your three months stay. This way you can stay within the state accommodation program. It is worth insisting that you really want to learn Spanish, so that if there are no courses in the village you are sent to, you can ask to be sent to the closest city with Spanish courses.
If you decide to leave the NGO voluntarily, some NGOs will pay for your to another city or give you some money to travel to another city (ONLY cities in Spain, they will not pay transport for you to leave the country). Be aware: this does not mean that another NGO will accommodate you in the city you arrive in!
By flight / with a visa
If you are thinking of applying for a visa, or need to renew your current visa, you can find information about this here (only in Spanish):
You can find official information about the different types of visa here:
If it is not possible to renew your visa and you want to stay in Spain, you will be in the situation of a person without papers. You will then have the option to claim asylum (more info here) or to stay without papers, trying to get regularization (residence in Spain, more info here).