Asylum and other forms of international protection

Under the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees, a refugee is defined as a person with a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, whom the authorities in his or her State are unable or unwilling to protect.These individuals may request asylum in a safe country.In other words, they have the right to seek refuge in another country as long as the authorities in their own State tolerate said threats, or are unwilling or unable to provide effective protection.

From the moment a person requests international protection, that person is protected by the principle of non-refoulement, a fundamental standard of human rights. According to this standard no one can be deported, returned or extradited until their request for protection is resolved.

It is important to bear in mind that there is a European rule known as the “Dublin Regulation”, which establishes that the first Member State of the European Union in which a person arrives, or the one that issued that person a visa or residence permit, shall be responsible for examining that person’s application for asylum. This means that, as a general rule, if you have registered as an asylum applicant in Spain, you cannot do so in another country at a later time. However, there are exceptions in certain cases involving family ties or issues of dependence. We recommend that you check with a lawyer if you have questions in this regard.

You can learn more about the Dublin Regulation under this link. In addition, you will also find a list of organisations that provide free legal assistance in this section.

Refugee Status

In accordance with Spanish Law 12/2009 regulating the right to Asylum and Subsidiary Protection, anyone who flees their country of origin or habitual residence due to a fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions, membership of a certain social group, gender or sexual orientation, whom the authorities in said country are unwilling or unable to protect, is considered a refugee.

It is important to note that the Spanish law expressly includes people who flee out of fear of gender-related persecution (acts of sexual violence, domestic and family violence, forced family planning, female genital mutilation, etc.) and persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex individuals)

Subsidiary Protection

Subsidiary protection is a form of international protection granted to people who cannot return to their country of origin because they would face a real risk of suffering serious harm.

The types of serious harm that could give rise to subsidiary protection are as follows:

  • Death penalty or the risk of physical execution
  • Torture or inhuman or degrading treatment of an applicant in the country of origin
  • Serious threats to the person’s life or integrity by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of conflict.

What happens to Stateless People?

A stateless person is someone who is not recognised as a national of any country and therefore lacks a legal nationality. Stateless people can apply for the stateless status recognised in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, in article 34.1 of Organic Law 4/2000, of 11 January, on the Rights and Liberties of Foreign Nationals in Spain, and in Royal Decree 865/2001, of 20 July, which enacts the Regulation on Recognition of the Status of Stateless Persons in Spain.

Stateless persons can also seek asylum when they are outside their country of habitual residence and are unwilling or unable to return to said country because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.


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