The civic space serves to coordinate the actions of the City Council with those of city organisations, associations and groups.
Once again Barcelona has reacted with a great show of solidarity to the present humanitarian crisis. After the mail box of the "Barcelona, Refuge City" plan opened, it received thousands of messages of support in no time, with all kinds of offers from individual citizens, bodies, businesses and schools in the city that were very keen to collaborate and help. The same was true of the social organisations.
But the indignation and solidarity shown by these citizens and organisations, on a par with the City Council's, came up against a wall of state paralysis. Cities receive asylum seekers but it is the European Union and member states that dictate asylum policy. The humanitarian crisis demands an immediate response but the reality is that governments are not lifting a finger, while hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and famine are risking their lives to get here.
So, the “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan, in collaboration with the city's various organisations and associations, has built a civic space to channel this citizen solidarity and set up, in a coordinated fashion, avenues for citizen participation to go along with its actions.
For example, a database has been set up to collect all the offers of services, resources, materials and activities that have been received, so they can be adapted to the specific needs of the refugees when they arrive in the city.
Making Barcelona a refuge city means making a city that is welcoming towards the people who are still to come as well as those who are already here.
But there are many other ways of giving support to refugees, besides direct help in the city. Help is needed at source and en route; we need training and information; we need to know the context and what makes people migrate; and we need to challenge the stereotypes that abound about other people. We also need to put pressure on European institutions and the EU member states, to ensure they honour their international commitments, by accepting people who need to come here and offering them a safe, legal corridor to reach Europe.
Until they get here, the best way we can help is to lay the ground for receiving them, organise information and awareness-raising activities, civic education, and take part in that. Even now, there are lots of refugees living in Barcelona who made their own way here, as well as other migrants in need of our solidarity and assistance to become independent and feel part of the city.
Making Barcelona a refuge city means making a city that is committed to the world and which is welcoming to those still to arrive as well as those who are already here.
The civic space encompasses citizen participation, awareness-raising and development-education initiatives, and serves to coordinate the actions of the City Council with those of city organisations, associations and groups, both formal and informal.
With this aim in mind, the “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan has established collaboration mechanisms with the Citizen Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona, a tool for cooperation between civil society and the City Council that currently embraces more than 600 bodies, associations and organisations in the city. The Citizen Agreement has a number of area action networks, such as the Resilient Barcelona Network, the Barcelona Immigrant Reception and Support Network and the Prevention and Coexistence Network.
Within that framework a social space - or operational group - has been set up comprising representatives of the various areas involved. These are the Barcelona Federation of Residents' Associations (FAVB); two professional associations, the Official College of Social Work of Catalonia (TSCAT) and the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia (COPC); the Catalan Federation of Social Volunteering (FCVS); the UB Solidarity Foundation, the scouts and guides Minyons Escoltes i Guies de Catalunya; the Catalan Third Sector Entities' Board and Asil.cat.
In turn, the Asil.cat network encompasses nine entities, including members with full rights and observers, that work together to defend the right of asylum in Catalonia: the Catalan Refugee Aid Commission, the Red Cross, ACCEM, the UNHCR Catalan Committee, SICAR cat, Exil, Pen Català, the ACSAR Foundation and ACATHI. This operational group works on defining strategic lines of work and joint action with the Refuge City plan team.
Awareness-raising activities and resources
The City Council and city associations have educational resources, as well as development education and awareness-raising tools, designed for civil society in general.
You might find them useful not just for training yourself but also for informing and organising activities in your circle, including your neighbourhoods, schools and children's and young people's free-time associations.
Anti-Rumour Activities Catalogue.
This catalogue suggests 37 free activities for challenging rumours and stereotypes about cultural diversity. It was drawn up as part of the City Council's BCN Interculturality programme in collaboration with the entities involved in the BCN Anti-rumours Network.
The activities, organised in age bands, are very varied, ranging from street activities and entertainment to exhibitions and workshops.
They are for organisations, groups, associations, foundations and schools, as well as municipal centres, services and programmes.
“Let's listen to the refugees.
Personal stories and experiences, first-hand”
This is an educational idea from the UNHCR Catalan Committee which consists of a talk by a refugee or an asylum seeker to explain their situation. For young people aged 14 to 18 as well as adults, in schools, neighbourhood centres, associations, etc.
Write to email@example.com if you want to request one.
Training for adults
The City Council's BCN Intercultural Action programme offers free, quality training based on three principles: fostering real equality in rights, duties and social opportunities, increasing knowledge and the visibility of diversity, and promoting positive interaction between all citizens.
For the staff of city entities and services that want to develop their skills and strategies in this area.
Educational resources for children and young people
- The UNHCR Catalan Committee has a number of activities and resources for the education community, teachers and educators to make children and teenagers aware of forced displacement. “Jo em dic Brisa, I tu?” ("My name's Brisa. What's yours?") is for children aged 6 to 12.
- The Autonomous University of Barcelona's School of Peace Culture also has activities for working with children on the consequences war has on the civilian population. The game "Escacs desplaçats" ("Displaced chessmen") helps to show the differences between a refugee and a displaced person. Designed for children aged 12 and over.
- The University of Barcelona's Research for Peace programme offers support and advice on research projects at secondary schools from a human rights' perspective. For secondary-education and Baccalaureate teachers and students.
- Two journalists' associations, Fora de Quadre and Contrast, together with the resource network Edualter and with the backing of the City Council, have produced a teaching guide based on the documentary series After peace to work on the consequences of war and the role of civil society in building peace. For Baccalaureate students.
- The UNHCR offers teachers and educators teaching materials and awareness-raising exhibitions for all levels of education.
- The UNHCR has also copied a set of educational resources produced by organisations working in refugee care and support, as well as educational experiences from schools working in this area.
- The LaFede.cat Resources Centre for a Transformative Education has compiled these and other teaching materials, produced by NGOs that belong to it, with a peace, human rights and development focus. For NGOs, teachers, schools, universities, educators and social educators, children's free-time associations, public authorities, the media and anyone interested.
Public institutions and professionals are responsible for covering the basic needs of refugees and providing psychosocial care, but that must be accompanied by processes that foster independence.
So the solidarity initiatives will be aimed at accompanying refugees on these processes for incorporation into everyday social life and at raising awareness of their arrival and the reasons for their fleeing from their countries.
In that context, volunteering is a commitment to the city, not to specific entities. Anyone can take part in them as part of their everyday lives, through residents', cultural and sports organisations and associations, as well as schools and other centres in their neighbourhoods and districts.
The “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan's civic space is channelling the offers for volunteering that it has been receiving through the Catalan Federation of Social Volunteering (FCVS). The aim is to have a database of everyone who wishes to help and can respond to offers when necessary.
Some of the support activities it will be useful to have citizen collaboration in are listed below. If you would like to get involved, please sign up using this form.
- Information and awareness-raising activities
- Environment-discovery, leisure and cultural activities
- Reception and free-time activities for children
- Knowledge of the language (language couples)
- Communication: help in promoting solidarity initiatives and campaigns, social networks and so on