The bishops of Spain have demanded the Government close the country’s controversial immigration detention centres (centros de internamiento de extranjeros, or CIEs).

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The Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE) presented last Wednesday a message and associated materials for the September 29 World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

In their message, the Spanish bishops said it was “urgent” that the government “eradicate and prevent” the “situations of vulnerability” and “violations of human rights” which migrants without papers suffer in Spain.

Those situations include pregnant migrant women forced to beg on the street and the plight of underage migrants in the country without parents or caregivers, the bishops denounced.

The CEE also reserved strong criticisms for the situation of migrants at the border, for laws that discriminate against migrants in administrative limbo and for the “painful and harsh” conditions in the CIEs.


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In 2018 there were a total of 7,855 ‘irregular’ migrants imprisoned in Spain’s CIEs, including 89 minors, according to Jesuit Migrant Service numbers.

“We’re asking for the closure [of these Centres], with clear and legal alternatives”, Bishops’ Migration Commission secretary José Luis Pinilla said at the presentation of the Bishops’ message.

Pinilla added that “the poorest among us are migrants without papers”.

“Everything that threatens migrants’ human rights must be banished… It’s not just about migrants, it’s about humanity”, he insisted.

“We’re convinced that this [closure of the CIEs] is an absolute priority”, said for his part the Spanish Bishops’ Migration Commission President Luis Quinteiro Fiuza, the Bishop of Tui-Vigo.

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In their message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Spanish bishops also alluded to the rise in Spain of xenophobic and ultranationalist political movements, such as the new political party Vox.

That’s an important issue for Spaniards, who will go to the polls again in November for the second time this year after the winners of last April’s general elections, the Socialist party, failed to form government.

The bishops said far-right movements such as Vox are looking to “reap votes in elections on a platform of getting rid of what they consider the burden of migration”.

The CEE said such anti-migration policies are “humanly unacceptable”.

The bishops added that “it’s even more regrettable when this mentality finds a favorable echo in some members of our Christian communities”.

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For the record

In contrast to this racism, the Spanish Bishops said that migrants “are not a danger, but a help that enriches us” and contributes to society.

“Where others see only a migrant, we Christians have to see a brother, thus making sure that our fears, prejudices and unfair stereotypes don’t hold them responsible, as sometimes happens, for social ills, giving rise to their exclusion”, the bishops explained.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.