- "Show of affection". Post by Ada Colau on Facebook.
- Letter to Rajoy. Letter from the Mayor of Barcelona to the Spanish prime minister.
- "We, the cities of Europe", open letter from Ada Colau, Barcelona; Anne Hidalgo, Paris; Spyros Galinos, Lesbos, and Giusi Nicolini, Lampedusa.
- Government measure: Barcelona, Refuge City. See more
The world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in recent history. Thousands of people are fleeing their homes every day in search of a safe haven and many are coming to Europe looking for protection.
It is the States that are deciding on asylum though it is cities that are giving shelter and ensuring that different ideas, cultures and religions can live side by side. We are doing that on a small scale every day but we can do it on a larger scale. All it needs is the political will.
Barcelona is not the epicentre of the crisis though it is and has always been an open, welcoming city that can help to alleviate the crisis. We showed our solidarity with the people displaced by the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The "Barcelona, Refuge City" plan was launched in September 2015 in response to the crisis and to gear the city up to receiving and assisting refugees and guaranteeing their rights.
The City Council has been offering support to migrants and asylum seekers since 1999, through the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER). It collaborates, through subsidies, with city NGOs working in asylum and in international development cooperation and education, which have been squeezed hard in recent years by Spanish and Catalan government cuts. It has also had the Barcelona International Peace Resource Centre (CRIPB) since 2009, which promotes peace cultures through dialogue, awareness raising and training in crisis management and conflict resolution.
Faced with the international humanitarian crisis and the Spanish State's inaction, the City Council, the city's social organisations and its citizens decided to mobilise again.
The "Barcelona, Refuge City" plan was launched in September 2015 in response to the crisis and gear the city up to receiving and assisting refugees, providing the necessary services and guaranteeing their rights, and to calling on states to respect the most elementary standards of humanitarian law.
The 21st century is the century of forcibly displaced persons. The circumstances we face today are exceptional but they are also long term. Any solution has to be designed with the future in mind. The refugees are already here but they will keep coming. And most of them will not be able to return home in the short term.
Main lines of work
The "Barcelona, Refuge City" plan operates on four main lines that involve various City Council departments and services:
Reception strategy: defines Barcelona's reception model and strategy and the implementation stages. The aim is to minimise its impact and implement it in the most effective way possible, taking into account refugees' needs and rights but also those of the city's population.
Care for refugees already in Barcelona: this means bolstering the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER) and designing a care programme that offers protection and assistance to asylum seekers already in Barcelona who are receiving no help from the state programme. See more
Citizen participation and information: the plan includes a civic space for coordinating the efforts of the City Council and NGOs in all the voluntary work, awareness-raising and development education tasks. Transparent information tools have also been set in motion, such as this website and a newsletter that will be sent regularly to anyone who is interested in receiving it. See more
Action abroad: the City Council is pushing for coordination and mutual support between European cities, both on a city-to-city basis as well as in the international networks they belong too. It has also increased the subsidies for NGOs working on the ground, at source and en route. See more
The “Barcelona, Refuge City" plan operates under various principles and in a cross-cutting way by:
Driving political initiatives, calling on the Spanish government and European Union to relocate refugees and establish safe, legal passage, as well as policies that tackle the root of the problem..
Launching an effective reception strategy and its own comprehensive care model for refugees in collaboration with organisations with expertise in this field and part of the city's voluntary organisation network, which should make it possible to tackle each case individually.
Bolstering the city's services, resources and networks without creating parallel structures to the existing ones. For example, one of the challenges of hosting refugees is housing. The plan is to expand Barcelona's social housing exchange, which will benefit the city.
Collaborating with city organisations and associations. All these tasks are being carried out with their involvement and expertise, from designing the reception model and strategy to organising and managing the volunteers.
Asylum policy is the State's responsibility, so the time scale and the number of people coming to Barcelona will depend on the Spanish government and its European commitments.
But the central government's paralysis and lack of information and coordination with regional and local authorities are not only preventing us from gearing up for the arrival of refugees but also creating expectations that are not being met, similar to the situation that arose in the autumn of 2015, when Spain was preparing to receive a high number of refugees relocated from Italy and Greece who did not arrive.
It is in this context of uncertainty that the "Barcelona, Refuge City" is anticipating events and preparing the city to respond effectively to any scenario: a standard number of people arriving under the European quotas, a massive number of people arriving under unforeseen circumstances or a constant flow of individuals and families arriving out of the blue.
The preparations have been carried out by the city's urban resilience committees, comprising representatives of many municipal departments and services. These include a variety of initiatives, such as:
Bolstering municipal services that have to deal with refugees, to assist them throughout the various stages of the asylum process, and producing an action guide for all the areas involved, ranging from housing and social services to health, education and employment.
Giving support through agreements with organisations that deal with refugees, to organise their stay and integration process speedily and effectively.
Designing an emergency measure that can be adopted in unforeseen circumstances and in the event of people arriving in high numbers on a sustained basis or more than 75 at once, which would cause the collapse of the state programme. This is a preventive measure designed to ensure the city runs normally, despite the exceptional situation that could result from people arriving in a short space of time. It is based on the model of Barcelona's Basic Municipal Emergency Plan.
Organising and managing volunteers and defining their profiles and tasks at each stage of the process, from assisting refugees in their movements and leisure activities to translating and learning languages.
The reception strategy consists of four stages: preparation, reception, accommodation and social follow-up. Their application will depend on the number of people accepted, when they arrive and, also, the expectations they have regarding their future.