Consular assistance
It is important to be aware of the consular assistance services that are and are not available to persons under arrest, as well as the assistance offered when it is needed

Assistance for persons under arrest

The aim of this section is to inform families and friends of Spaniards who have been arrested or sentenced to imprisonment in foreign countries of the services that may be provided by the Spanish Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation and its Embassies and Consulates, as well as to state those actions that are not permitted under Spanish law, which therefore cannot be offered.
Protection and assistance

Problems of a very varied and serious nature may affect those arrested or imprisoned in a foreign country (such as problems with telephone and postal services, cultural differences and different lifestyles plus, in the majority of cases, a different language). In these cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation may provide assistance and help.


On this issue, it should be highlighted that those travelling to another country are subject to the local laws of that country; therefore, if a Spanish national breaks the law of another country, they will be subject to legal proceedings according to the law of that country, without the possibility of being exempt from appearing before the local judiciary or, as the case may be, from conviction. Ignorance of the local law and the status of foreigner do not exempt foreigners from compliance with and observance of the laws of the country they are in, and hence, no-one, not even the Consulate or the Embassy, can exempt the offender from the application of the foreign law.


As soon as you become aware of the arrest of a family member or friend in a foreign country you should get in contact with:


Dirección General de Españoles en el Exterior y de Asuntos Consulares y Migratorios

C/ Pechuán nº 1 28002 MADRID
Telephone: 91 379 16 55

Prior to taking any action, such as sending money, medication or even travelling to the other country, it is advisable to address the Directorate-General of Spaniards Overseas and of Consular and Migratory Affairs or the corresponding Consulate, regarding the suitability of undertaking these actions and of the best way to proceed.


The criteria that guide the State’s action on this matter aim to ensure its nationals will receive suitable treatment from the penitentiary authorities, as well to ensure respect for the intimacy of the detained person. Regarding the last point, Organic Law 15/1999 of 13 December on the protection of personal data and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which entered into force last 25 May 2018 shall apply.


Hiring a foreign lawyer

The legal representation of a Spanish citizen abroad and the choice of a lawyer are highly important tasks and should be carried out with great care. It is fairly common for foreign lawyers to ask for large sums of money in advance in exchange for vague promises which are finally not kept.


The Spanish Consular Sections are in a position to provide a list of lawyers specialised in certain types of cases, but it should be understood that they cannot recommend a particular lawyer. The decision to hire a legal professional is the personal responsibility of the arrested person, or of their legal representatives. Spanish representations overseas cannot, under any circumstances, be party to this professional relationship.


It should be remembered that the concept of duty solicitor exists in almost every country; this implies free legal aid to those who can prove to lack the means to hire private legal assistance.


Assistance for detainees

Spanish Consular Sections, pursuant to the laws and regulations of the country where the Spanish citizen is arrested or imprisoned, may:


  • Notify family members and friends of their arrest and, as the case may be, of the conviction, providing that the prisoner authorises this.
  • Periodically visit them. The frequency of visits will depend on local regulations, the special circumstances affecting the prisoner, the location of the prison, the number of Spaniards in prison, the number of Spaniards detained in penitentiary centres within the consular district and the availability of personnel at the relevant Consular Section.
  • Deliver and receive messages and correspondence.
  • Request the local authorities, following a request in writing, for information on the case.
  • At those penitentiary centres that do not cover the basic needs of arrested persons (food, medication, clothing, etc.), the Consular Sections will try to help obtain these, to the extent possible.
  • Gather information on personal belongings that are missing or not available
  • Provide reading material
  • Provide assistance in the event that the prisoner should request a transfer to Spain within the framework of Agreements on the Transfer of persons convicted to deprivation of liberty, in those countries Spain has signed an agreement of this nature with or which are parties, as in the case of Spain, to the Strasbourg Convention.


In contrast, they may not:

  • Pay out with public funds fines imposed on Spanish nationals by the authorities of another country, nor settle compensation or civil redress imposed by foreign authorities, whether judicial or otherwise.
  • Provide legal opinions or interpretations of local laws and regulations.
  • Attend legal hearings except in exceptional circumstances, if there are well-founded suspicions that the Spanish citizen may be deprived or their fundamental rights.
  • Recommend a specific lawyer – although a list of lawyers may be provided – in the event that the national arrested person rejects free legal aid offered which is generally provided in all countries.
  • Become involved in substantial matters between the arrested person and their lawyer.
  • Introduce into prison–or send from its premises–anything that is not authorised by the relevant prison regulations.
  • Organise accommodation for family or friends of the arrested person who wish to visit the latter.
  • Exercise consular protection of Spanish arrested persons who are also nationals of the country in which they are arrested, if said country does not recognise their dual nationality or if the internal laws and regulations of same limit the consular protection.
  • Undertake any task that may be considered to go against the judiciary's independence.


Contact with local authorities

Spanish Consular Sections abroad will ask the local authorities for immediate contact with and access to a Spanish arrested person, from the time they become aware of the arrest and until their release.


Furthermore, they will endeavour to ensure that the treatment received by the Spanish national is, at least, the same as that received by the nationals of the country in question. They will work to obtain the authorisations that the detainee may require from all local authorities in order to contact their family and friends as well as the corresponding Consular Section.


They will obtain information on the status of the arrested person and will seek to ensure that the local authorities do not prolong their situation without clear justification.


They will appropriately monitor the health condition of those arrested, and will ensure that the authorities of the correctional establishment provide Spanish prisoners with suitable food and medical services.


Finally, in those countries with which there is an agreement on the Transfer of convicted persons, or which are a party to the Strasbourg Convention, they will undertake to ensure that the transfer procedure is carried through as swiftly as possible. The transfer may only take place if the three parties so agree (prisoner, sentencing State and State of enforcement).



Friends or family members who decide to visit a Spaniard arrested in a foreign prison should be aware that, in some countries, they may fall into the hands of ill-intentioned individuals who wish to take advantage of their situation by raising false hopes in exchange for large sums of money. They should also be aware of the fact that in many countries prison conditions are far worse than the usual ones in Spain.


If you should wish to proceed with your plans to visit, it is advisable to inform the corresponding Consular Section or, as the case may be, the Directorate-General of Spaniards Overseas and of Consular and Migratory Affairs. We recommend that any information you wish to have is requested in advance, particularly with regard to the visit days and times at specific prisons, and the requirements to enter and stay in the corresponding country.


Assistance in situations of need

Spanish residents overseas who find themselves in a situation of need can visit the Consular Section or the Employment and Social Security Department, where they will be informed of the aid programmes that exist and how to proceed with the applications, if appropriate.


Spaniards who are temporarily abroad and find themselves in a situation of unexpected need as a result of an accident, or if they have fallen victim to theft, or suffer a sudden serious illness or any other unforeseen situation, and are unable to leave the country on their own means, can seek the assistance of the Spanish Consulate General. The Consulate will help them get in contact with their family or friends in Spain in order to solve their problem.


Likewise, our Overseas Consulates offer consular assistance to Spanish women who suffer se gender-based violence while abroad.


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