The Camp de Rivesaltes near Perpinyà, in the French Department of Pyrénées Orientales, was created in the 1930s. This camp hosted the Spanish republican exiles (1939); the "indésirables" of the Vichy regime; Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War; the German prisoners at the end of the war; the Algerians loyal to France called "harkis" and the pro-French Guinean soldiers, in the 60s. After 20 years of inactivity (1966-88), the Camp de Rivesaltes worked again from 1988 to 2007 as an internment centre for illegal immigrants.
Now one of the groups of barracks has been conserved and converted into a grand Memorial with a Museum, auditorium and library. This way, the previous refugee camp, concentration camp, prisoner detention camp, reunification camp and internment camp of Rivesaltes has now been converted by the French Authorities into a permanent exhibit of the memory of things badly done. The objective is warranting a future in which the Republican Values (freedom, equality, fraternity) will prevail always and everywhere. So reminded French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, as he opened the Memorial on October 16 in front of some hundreds of people sharing these civic values and this effort in favour of the historical memory. Within the assistants there was a delegation of the Catalan Government, integrated by the Home Minister Ms Meritxell Borràs, the General Director of Institutional Relations Mr Miquel Puig and myself as Representative of the Catalan Government in France and Switzerland. There was no official representation of the Spanish Government. A Consular Representation had been announced but it was not visible at the key moments of the Opening Ceremony. No doubt all of us emphasized with our presence the communion with these civil, democratic and solidary values known in France as Valeurs Républicaines.
Far from Rivesaltes, at the beaches of Lesbos Island, is where now the refugees are arriving. Catalonia offered to welcome 15,000 refugees. Seventy-six years earlier, in just three weeks of 1939, round 450,000 Spanish republicans crossed the border to ask political asylum to France. Approximately one third of those, 150,000, were from Catalonia. For the Catalan Foreign Service, the history of Rivesaltes as well as the values represented by its Memorial are therefore crucially important.
Catalan Government Representative in France and Switzerland