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Spain: Supreme Court confirms the right to free movement of asylum seekers throughout national territory

Spanish Supreme Court, for the 3rd time, confirmed the right to free movement of asylum seekers throughout the country. On 10 February 2021, the Chamber of Contentious-Administrative Proceedings of the Supreme Court of Spain issued its judgment, validating the right of asylum seekers to move freely throughout the national territory.

The ruling issued in July 2020, stated that the Ministry of the Interior cannot restrict movement of asylum seekers from the autonomous cities of Melilla and Ceuta, situated on the northwest coast of Africa, to other parts of Spanish territory. The ruling was subsequently appealed on the grounds that the identification documents of asylum-seekers going through the procedure of granting international protection are not valid for travels to the Spanish mainland.

The Court dismissed the appeal, indicating that the same issue had already been proceeded in two previous judgements. The former statements have already specified that the guidelines governing the procedure of granting international protection cannot be an obstacle to the fundamental right of free movement throughout the national territory, nor to the individual decision on the place of residence while undergoing the procedure.

The judgement stressed the validity of the already established obligation of asylum seekers to keep Spanish authorities informed in regards to any changes of residence while undergoing the procedure. According to the Court, considering that the asylum seekers assume the requirement of disclosing the change of address, it can only be as they are entitled to change their place of residence. The Court also highlighted that the law ought to be interpreted in keeping with the values of fundamental rights, observing that under certain circumstances these rights can be restricted, with the understanding that such limitation is needed to reach an intended legitimate aim, and that it is has a proportionate character. In this respect the Court’s ruling emphasised that none of these conditions were adequately articulated to validate the restriction of the fundamental right of free movement. 

According to the Court’s final conclusion, all foreign nationals who have lodged the application for international protection or asylum in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are entitled to move freely throughout the country, as well as to choose their place of residence in any other city in Spanish territory. It was strongly acknowledged that this rights cannot be restricted because of the status of applicant for international protection.


Alicja Szczutowska
NIEM's National Coalition Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs