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Project Summary

This project is aimed at denouncing, disseminating, and reversing the discriminatory violation of the rights of migrant and refugee women and girls (and by extension, of the entire migrant and refugee population) in Spain, due to the lack of state protection and, in particular, due to the annulment in practice of the right to have a legal identity in accordance with their immigration status that allows them real access to related rights in dignified conditions, such as the right to work, housing, or social benefits. The means to be used are legal (strategic litigation), pedagogical (report), and communication (campaigns).

Problem Statement

More than 600,000 foreign people in Spain survive with their most fundamental rights curtailed. One of those rights that has been deeply mutilated in recent years is the right to a legal identity. 

According to Spanish immigration legislation, being duly documented by the Spanish Administration, the right to a legal identity as a foreigner in Spain constitutes a right for all the migrant and refugee population. However, since 2017 the government has restricted this right until it has been annulled in practice today, denying them the possibility of initiating procedures related to their administrative legal status, of continuing or ending them, despite complying with the legal requirements to regularize. 

In 2018, a telematic system for access to the administration was established for the application and renewal of residence permits. Since then, law firms, agencies, and similar groups, thanks to advanced computer means, obtain all the scarce appointments that the Administration is issuing, appointments that later sell for up to € 400 to affected people. 

This practical impossibility of accessing the Administration in order to be documented as foreigners harms the migrant and refugee population equally in all areas, making their situation even more precarious, already discriminatory, and putting them at risk of exclusion (by not being able to access the regulated labor market, health care, employment services, housing, social benefits, recognition of degrees, opening bank accounts, etc.) and expulsion from Spain. 

A situation that, as a result of the pandemic, has worsened considerably, according to the Spanish Ombudsman. During the pandemic, the number of homeless people in Spain has increased by 35%, and the labor and sexual exploitation of women has worsened. A large percentage of these are foreign. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gap and aggravated the situation of the migrant and refugee population in Spain, and particularly of women and girls, due to the huge level of precariousness of the jobs they are forced to perform: collecting horticultural products, caring for the elderly, domestic service or cleaning. Without dignified conditions and in which situations of harassment and violence by their employers are a constant reality.  

For them, the lack of access to the possibility of obtaining a residence permit further aggravates the violations of rights due to the existing gender gap and the digital divide that makes it more difficult for them to use telematic systems. A discriminatory reality that is deepened by State abandonment.

Project DescriptionAMG

The actions that have already been undertaken by AMG for trying to solve this problem are legal and advocacy actions before institutions and the media. Among them: 

  1. The complaint before the Ombudsman, in which, in addition to the violation of the right of access to the Administration, it was denounced the administrative practice by which asylum seekers were forced to renounce their application if they wanted to present another residence permit (which is not prohibited by law). 
  2. The lawsuit for the procedure for the protection of fundamental rights, when assessing that there is no justification to deny access to the Administration to the migrant and refugee population, and therefore to face a discriminatory action based on nationality. 
  3. The union with different national platforms to advocate for the access of all migrants in an irregular situation to obtain residence permits. 
  4. Work with the media in the positioning of biographies of migrant and refugee women who provided essential services during the State of Alarm and who have subsequently suffered a supervening "illegality" due to the lack of access to the  Administration to renew their permits. 

These actions have already had positive consequences:

  1. The Ombudsman has agreed with AMG in all its demands and has communicated the pertinent recommendations to the Administration. In particular, its strong response regarding the right of access to the Administration for asylum seekers, who were not allowed to make their request compatible with a residence permit, has already caused a change: on September 8, 2020, the Secretary of State for Migration issued a new instruction to allow the compatibility of the application for residence permits with current asylum applications. 
  2. The lawsuit for violation of fundamental rights promoted by AMG is today, the only judicial claim on this issue in the Spanish State and presents a strategic and innovative change in the way of conceiving the rights of the migrant and refugee population as fundamental rights and not under the arbitrary action of the administrative institutions.
  3. Regularización Ya! (Regularization Now) Network, of which AMG is part, made a non-law proposal in Spanish Congress, supported by eight political parties, for the administrative regularization of all migrants in an irregular situation in Spain, considering that no person should have their rights violated because of their nationality, and even less because of the greater vulnerability of this group in the pandemic context. 
  4. The generation of a current of opinion on the subject and also of biographical references of the women advised by AMG in reference media in Spain, to make the problem visible.

Project Impact and Potential for Scaling, Replication, and Sustainability

Continued impact: 

  1. Our work has already had a real positive impact on the situation of migrant and refugee women and girls, and by extension, on the entire migrant and refugee population. 
  2. Despite this, the foreign women and girls continue to see their right to legal identity as migrants/refugees violated. A reality that, as already mentioned, has worsened with the pandemic, with serious socio-labor and health consequences. 
  3. This situation makes it even more necessary to continue, reinforce, and expand this project in order to recognize fundamental rights for migrant and refugee women that should never have been annulled. 
  4. For this reason, from AMG we continue to carry out new actions and to reinforce those already started.

Potential for scaling: 

  1. In relation to the strategic litigation raised:  
    • The growth may be in the number of cases: more resources would allow to present others also in Courts of other strategic cities in Spain. 
    • Growth can also be in relation to the decision-making body: this strategic litigation is originally raised in order to be brought before international bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights.
  2. Through new actions to take: 
    • The preparation of a diagnostic report on this problem would serve both as a support for the judicial strategy that is carried out, as an advocacy tool for all the organizations that work in Spain for refugees and migrants. 
    • Growing advocacy work in institutions and through denunciation and dissemination campaigns in the media and social networks. 


  1. Strategic litigation actions before the courts could be replicated by other entities in coordination with AMG, throughout Spain. 
  2. The report will be an important informative and pedagogical tool that would allow more migrants and refugees to learn about their right to a legal identity as migrants or refugees, with fundamental rights and their guarantees. 
    • The pedagogical potential would be exponential thanks to networking with other organizations that can replicate the actions. 
    • Furthermore, the fact that AMG is an organization founded and led by migrant and refugee women, which is not frequent in Spain, is an essential boost for the empowerment of the community itself. 
  3. The development of a dissemination and complaint campaign through the media and social networks to place the issue at the center of public debate: 
    • The greater visibility that a campaign of these characteristics would provide is essential to obtain political, social, and economic support for any initiative. 
    • Likewise, only strong campaigns are able to incline judicial judgment to more extensive legal practices. 


  1. AMG is not financed by public resources, which allows us greater autonomy and independence. All of our funds come essentially from the contributions of our members, most of them migrant and refugee women, and from some subsidies granted by private entities. 
  2. This project has been and is currently sustainable thanks to the committed work of a group of lawyers who have worked pro-bono to undertake the aforementioned administrative, legal, and media actions. 
  3. Undoubtedly, the possibility of having more means generates that the horizon of sustainability is reinforced and enlarged.

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