IMMIGRATION

Angry immigrants end mutiny at Madrid detention center

Undocumented foreigners spent night on rooftop of center calling for “liberty” and “dignity”

Migrants on the rooftop of the Aluche detention center.Foto: Kike Para (atlas)

A group of 39 illegal immigrants attempted to escape from the Aluche detention center in Madrid on Tuesday night, retreating to the rooftop to demand their release.

After 12 hours of negotiations with the Spanish National Police – a tense stand-off conducted in driving rain – the migrants began coming down on Wednesday morning.

Madrid Mayor Manuel Carmena has called the Aluche center a failed institution

Center sources said that “they are all back in their rooms” after being assured that “there will be no reprisals.”

Antonio Nevado, the spokesman for the Spanish National Police, told the state broadcaster TVE that the migrants had no weapons and that there were no reports of injuries. He also said that 38 of the 39 men are Algerian.

This source denied that the action was triggered by a smaller police presence at the Aluche center after patrols were sent to Santiago Bernabéu stadium to deal with violent fans of the Legia Warsaw soccer team, which was facing Real Madrid on Tuesday night.

But other police sources told EL PAÍS that immigrants took advantage of the lower officer numbers at the state-run detention center, which has been described in the past by the mayor of Madrid as “a failed institution.”

The Aluche migrant center has been criticized in the past.
The Aluche migrant center has been criticized in the past.

The mutiny began at 10pm, said center sources.

“They covered the security cameras so they would not be monitored from the camera room, and began breaking the furniture and making their way to the rooftop,” said this source. The 39 migrants remained there through the night, chanting the words “freedom” and “dignity.”

Representatives of Ahora Madrid, the leftist coalition in Madrid City Hall, joined members of the anti-austerity party Podemos in sweeping criticism of detention centers.

Podemos Secretary General Pablo Iglesias called for a solution “in a peaceful way that respects human rights,” and also asked to have the Aluche center shut down afterwards.

A shame to society

Immigrant internment centers shame our society, and it is our obligation to close them. In a democracy, everyone has the same rights,” tweeted Podemos’ number two official, Íñigo Errejón.

This is not the first time that the Aluche detention center has made headlines. On August 24, 17 immigrants escaped after sawing off the bars of a bathroom window. Ten were arrested, but the other seven were never found.

Other CIEs (for the Spanish Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros) have experienced similar events. In early October, 67 migrants escaped from the Sangonera center in Murcia after faking a medical emergency and wounding five police officers who called in an ambulance.

Police unions have repeatedly complained about the blurry legal status of Spain’s migrant holding centers, which are not technically prisons although in practice they function as such. Many of them are over capacity.

In July, Madrid Mayor Manuel Carmena said that the Aluche center is a “failed institution” because it does not meet its goal of deporting undocumented foreigners within a two-month period. And Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has clashed with state authorities over the city's Zona Franca center, which she has repeatedly criticized.

English version by Susana Urra.

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