The reception of refugees: A state-managed model, but the Catalan institutions can still do a lot

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The figures on the reception of refugees in Spain are appalling: indeed, Spain received only 1% of the total asylum applications of the European Union last year.

The few who make it to Spain often choose Catalonia to start a new life: Catalonia received around 1,300 asylum applications last year; it therefore needs a good reception system that allows the refugees to become and feel that they are full citizens.

The current reception programme for refugees is state-managed and lasts from 18 to 24 months, according to the person’s vulnerability. It is developed through 3 phases: reception, during which the refugee is hosted in a reception centre and his/her basic needs are taken care of (6-9 months), integration (the person leaves the reception centre but continues receiving social assistance and other types of guidance) and autonomy (the social assistance is not automatic and much more focused on job finding). However, people fleeing war and other human rights violations have been exposed to such horrendous situations that they often need more time and more care to repair themselves and to rebuild an independent life.

Moreover, many services that are involved in the reception of refugees fall under the competencies of Catalonia or of the Catalan municipalities. And because the reception model is state-managed does not mean that Catalonia does not have a role or there cannot be initiatives to improve the conditions of reception of the refugees in Catalonia. As a matter of fact, since 2014 Catalonia has its own Plan for International Protection that still has to be implemented, and duly funded.

Other local institutions also have a role: several municipalities have been developing their own plans of reception and programmes that complement the above described State programme, such as Barcelona and Sant Boi de Llobregat. In the same direction, the Catalan Commission for Refugees has also developed a proposal to the municipalities interested in collaborating to host refugees entering the integration phase.

Catalonia, its cities and its people aspire to be a land of reception: to make it happen, we need to keep protesting against the current inhuman asylum policy of the European states, and Spain in particular, but initiatives from the Catalan institutions to strengthen the current reception model should also be encouraged, funded and implemented.

 

Pascale Coissard

Catalan Commission for Refugees

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