the art of being legal

International protection: The conflict in Ukraine

Due to the war conflict between Russia and Ukraine, many Ukrainian citizens have been obliged to leave their country and seek safety in other states.

What is the legal situation of these Ukrainian citizens who, fleeing the war, cross the borders?

Our Spanish Constitution regulates what we know as the "right of asylum", which is the right to seek international protection, under the condition of refugee, outside the country of origin or habitual residence. This circumstance occurs because they are fleeing a conflict that endangers the life of a person, because there is a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

In fact, asylum is an internationally recognized human right, as it is also regulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.

How should it be processed?

In Spain, both the requirements and the procedure to be followed are set out in our Law regulating the right to asylum and subsidiary protection.

With the invasion of the Russian army in Ukraine, it seems that the minimum requirements are met to consider that its nationals can apply for this right of asylum in our country. However, it is important for us to know that each State can establish, in its internal legislation, the necessary conditions for its processing.

What should Ukrainian citizens take into account when applying for asylum in Spain?

We must start from two different situations, depending on whether the foreign citizen is already in Spain or not.

Thus, if he/she is already in Spain but cannot enter our territory, he/she must file the asylum application at the same border post. However, if the foreign citizen is already in our country, the application must be filed at the Asylum and Refuge Office (OAR), at any Alien's Office, at the authorized Police Stations or even at the Alien Internment Centers.

A fact to take into account is that if you do not have identity documents, it will not be an impediment to apply for the corresponding right to international protection.

What rights do people who are recognized as refugees have?


First they will have a "white card", which is the receipt that certifies that they are in the process of being admitted to the asylum application process and in which a Foreigner's Identity Number (NIE) is assigned. In addition, this card authorizes to work for up to six months since the application for international protection was formalized and may be renewed, becoming a "red card" until the case is resolved.


In the meantime, the asylum applicant may:

  • Remain in Spanish territory, unless required by another country of the European Union or by an International Criminal Court.
  • Have access to medical assistance in case of need.
  • Have free assistance from a lawyer.
  • To have the assistance of an interpreter to understand the language.
  • To have the right to have their application communicated to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Spain.
  • To be informed of the status of their file and to be documented as an applicant for international protection.

Cristina González Nájar

Date published: 6 March 2022

Last updated: 31 March 2023