Refuge cities join forces against Rajoy

Wed, 27/09/2017 - 10:41


Asylum. Representatives from twenty municipalities go to the Spanish congress to call for the state to urgently take in the 15,000 refugees who have not yet been relocated.

Let them come and let them come now. That was the message from Spain’s refuge cities today as they combined to call on the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, to deliver on European asylum commitments and urgently take in the 15,000 refugees who have still not arrived in Spain.

“Rajoy can’t keep hiding and giving excuses. He either fulfils his human rights obligations or he makes way for refuge cities”, stated the Deputy Mayor for Citizen Rights, Jaume Asens.

Asens headed a delegation of representative from twenty cities as they went to the Spanish congress in Madrid on a very symbolic day, 26 September, the deadline for the two-year period the Spanish government had to relocate and resettle 17,337 refugees from Greece, Italy and the countries bordering Syria. Of all these people, and over the last 24 months, less than 2,000 have arrived. That’s one in ten.

The message from cities is clear: they’re calling on Rajoy to put a detailed emergency plan into operation, setting out a calendar for the remaining fifteen thousand people to be taken in by the state, guaranteeing their rights and dignity. They also call on him to explain to congress, to municipalities and the public the reasons why he has not fulfilled the commitments he agreed to with the EU two years ago.

“Our cities are ready to work on taking in the 15,000 people which should already be here”, asserted Asens, along with other municipal officials who travelled to the Spanish capital and representing Badalona, Cádiz, Cordoba, Girona, Granada, La Corunya, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Sabadell, Sant Boi de Llobregat, El Prat de Llobregat, Tarragona, Valencia and Zaragoza.

“Thousands of people would be out of danger if Rajoy had delivered on his promise to the EU. We refuge cities won’t just live with that. We want to take people in!”, tweeted the Mayor, Ada Colau.

The delegation took part in a working meeting with members from various parliamentary groups, to whom they conveyed their indignation at the passiveness and lack of sensitivity of the central government. The delegation called on them to put combined measures in place to force the government to meet its EU commitments on refuge, despite the deadline having passed.

Representatives from the groups which received the delegation (Compromís, En Comú Podem, En Marea, PdCat, ERC and Unidos Podemos) underlined the fact that the central government has ignored its obligations and at the same time prevented other administrations being able to receive and support refugees with the resources needed. The PP and Cs parties declined the invitation to attend, while the PSOE, which had confirmed it would be present, didn’t show up in the end.

The municipalities also wanted to denounce the lack of support for councils when it comes to supporting refugees arriving on a daily basis and reaching cities under their own steam. Asens denounced the lack of transparency regarding the use of European funding received by Spain for integrating migrants and refugees, “which is actually used to control borders and enforce expulsion policies”, he pointed out.

Asens gave Barcelona as an example, where the first six months of this year have seen the city attend to twice as many refugees as the whole of last year, nearly 2,300 people in all. “Barcelona will be spending 1.5 million euros in 2017 to provide initial support for refugees arriving in the city who are still not provided for by the state refuge programme. We believe that’s an expense which should be met by the state, as in other Spanish cities”, he explained.

Municipal representatives also coincided in denouncing the opaqueness of information from the central government; the serious lack of housing to accommodate refugees in some cities; the huge coordination effort being taken on by municipalities and entities to support refugees and work with them, and the fact that many local entities have had to start alternative programmes to provide for asylum seekers in their cities who are excluded by the state scheme in their cities.

The meeting with parliamentary groups at the Spanish congress comes after the meeting in Barcelona in July between representatives from the 25 refuge cities, when the group undertook to work together to share successful experiences in this field and denounce the central government’s neglect.


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