On 16 June 2017, the Spanish Committee for Assistance to Refugees (CEAR) denounced the fact that the Ministry of Interior has accumulated some 22,000 asylum applications, mainly from people originating from Ukraine and Venezuela. The CEAR has accused the Department of Asylum and Protection (OAR) of postponing asylum decisions until the situation in the country of origin evolves. It is, according to the CEAR, “a very worrying practice” which has also been criticised by the UNHCR and the Ombudsman.
Record number of asylum-seekers in 2016
15,755 asylum applications were registered in 2016, around a quarter of which were lodged by Venezuelans. For the first time, Venezuelans made up the largest group (3,960), followed by Syrians (2,975), Ukrainians (2,570), Algerians (740), Columbians (615), and, for the first time in the top 10 countries, Honduras (385).
There were only 19 Venezuelan asylum-seekers in 2010, 52 in 2011, 28 in 2012, 35 in 2013, before they rose significantly to 124 in 2014 and 596 in 2015. The figure for last year represented an increase of around six and a half times.
Regarding Syrians, the trend was almost the contrary since the number fell from 5,724 in 2015 to 2,975, essentially due to the sharp fall in applications lodged in the enclave city of Melilla, were 2,440 were lodged last year, compared to more than double in 2015. According to CEAR, this is the result of the “increasing difficulties” in reaching the office of asylum of the frontier post of Beni Enzar, and the absence of other legal means for Syrians to seek asylum in Spain.
In the case of Columbians, the figure of 615 represented a sharp rise from that of 2015 when 129 sought asylum. They were essentially people fleeing from criminal groups and other agents of armed conflict, claiming that the authorities of their country are unable to provide them with sufficient protection.
All in all, of the 10,250 asylum applications processed last year, only 355 received refugee status, or 3.4% of the total. Approximately 63.6% received subsidiary protection status. 93% of those receiving subsidiary protection were Syrians.
Like some other EU Member State receiving a large number of Syrian asylum-seekers, Spain has opted for granting them subsidiary protection status instead of Convention Status which is accompanied with more rights and security of residence.