Cepaim. Twenty-five years providing support for migrants

Wed, 26/06/2019 - 19:07


Reception. We attended the anniversary celebration by this foundation, whose work revolves around respect, social cohesion and harmony.

“We’ve moved through souls of all colours” observed the vice-chair of the Fundació Cepaim, Raúl Martínez, opening the ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona-based organisation.

This was a festive occasion, with a large dose of music and speeches thanking volunteers who together with the professional team and users have built an authentic incubator for interculturality, respect and the joint construction of new citizenships. The goal of the organisation is to help towards social cohesion and harmony, and in Barcelona it is at the forefront in the fight for the respect and reception of migrants.

The Fundació Cepaim was set up to respond to social dynamics relating to migration and social exclusion. As Raúl explained at the celebration, “the goal is for migrants to be included in our society, but also to help society extend a dignified welcome for people who, from an intercultural perspective, are and will be city residents. This vision from our host society is crucial: one of the reflections we must make is when a person stops being a migrant and becomes a citizen”.

A leading organisation in working with migrants

“We’ve equipped ourselves with tools and methodology and we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who we’ve shared things with and learnt to live side by side with. We create cohesion, the adhesive that enables us to live alongside each other, with everyone able to be themselves, maintaining differences but living together”, continues Raúl, explaining the 25 years of work with migrants which started in1994, when Spain was one the countries with the highest rates of immigration in Europe. The foundation operates in nine autonomous regions and has 28 members of staff, as well as numerous volunteers who help with learning, workshops, administrative support, recreational and sports outings.

They work in eight different fields, including international protection (one of the most recent categories) and community action, as the next step for migrants and refugees after arriving and being taken in. This stage is when the established population and the migrant one must create mechanisms for living side by side.

Housing, the first thing to tackle in international protection

M.ª Remedios Díaz, social worker and head of the organisation’s Area of Reception and International Protection in Barcelona, recalls the early days: “Cepaim started working with refugees after the call for the asylum programme was opened in 2015. New entities couldn’t join in until that point. We started by making two flats available and now we manage seven flats for refugees, as well as offering them psychological, legal and social support. We do this through a comprehensive reception programme for people at risk, people seeking asylum and refuge”.

Community action as a tool for working on interculturality

Amadou Bocar Sam is another member of the professional team at Cepaim, perhaps the best-known outside the organisation itself as in 2018 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Civic Merit by Barcelona City Council. Sam started working with the NGO in 2006, when they first started operating in Barcelona. It was an intense point in terms of migration. Resources, including human resources, were needed to support reception work being done with people mainly reaching the coast in flimsy boats.

Amadou Bocar Sam is another member of the professional team at Cepaim, perhaps the best-known outside the organisation itself as in 2018 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Civic Merit by Barcelona City Council

Cepaim was one of the organisations which got heavily involved in this emergency, thanks to the knowledge and experience of people like Sam. He is actually now one of the people working in the area of community action, which arose out of the need to provide ongoing support for people who arrived during this period.

Sam describes community action thus: “In the Besòs neighbourhoods, where we initially found settlements of mainly sub-Saharan Africans, we’re working to provide ongoing support to create and strengthen ties between neighbourhood organisations and local residents, of Catalan and other origins alike. We promote universal access and participation to look for elements together which can bring together collectives of diverse origins, particularly through mediation and the participation of migrant groups in neighbourhood activities.

Like many city organisations working to improve the daily life of migrants and refugees, Cepaim is an essential element in Barcelona becoming an authentic reception city. It’s been 25 years of hard work, helping numerous people and turning many hopes into reality.



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