The United Nations refugee agency has expressed concern to Spain over the "extremely poor conditions" it says asylum seekers must endure in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Africa.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Spain to devote more resources to improving conditions in Ceuta, which it says fail to meet minimum European Union standards on the issue.
A spokesman for UNHCR, Rupert Colville, told a press briefing in Geneva today that Ceuta's sole reception centre is badly overcrowded, and that more than 500 other asylum seekers are forced to live outside the centre, with many having to sleep "out in the open, under bridges, under trees and on open land near the beach."
The situation in Ceuta is so disturbing, Mr. Colville added, that food distribution for people outside the reception centre is "reminiscent of scenes in camps in some of the poorest developing countries."
Mr. Colville said UNHCR is also concerned about the length of time Spain is forcing asylum seekers to wait before they are allowed to lodge formal claims for asylum.