The central government “will bear in mind” Barcelona City Council’s offer to take in 100 refugees who are currently in Athens, but will do so within the framework of the relocation programme agreed with European partners last year. The programme is meant to see 17,337 refugees hosted over the course of two years, of which only 18 have arrived in the Spanish state to date.
This was the reply from the President of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, to the letter sent last week by the Mayor, Ada Colau, as part of the agreement between the cities which was reached with her Athens counterpart, Iorgos Kaminis.
Rajoy expresses his appreciation for “the generosity” shown by City Council and the city of Barcelona and asks Colau to inform the Ministry for Employment and Social Security and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) on the resources City Council has in place “to be able to organise in the most convenient manner the reception” of refugees arriving in the Spanish state.
In his letter, Rajoy states that the Italian and Greek authorities have been informed that Spain will “immediately” set about resettling 32 more refugees from Italy and 150 from Greece. The Spanish president points out that asylum matters are the exclusive responsibility of the state and that both operations must be carried out within the framework of European procedures.
The central government has also announced it is working with the UNHCR to organise the arrival of 285 refugees before the end of April. The refugees in question are fleeing the Syrian conflict and are currently in countries which share borders with the region. The state should actually have taken in 854 people in 2015 as part of the national programme for the resettlement of refugees in Spain.
The Deputy Mayor for Social Rights and Councillor for Sant Andreu, Laia Ortiz, made reference to the response from central government to City Council’s offer during the media visit to the Casa Bloc, the district building belonging to INCASÒL which is shortly to receive refugees already in the city.
On behalf of City Council, Ortiz condemned the response as “shutting out the possibility of building solidarity between cities”, also noting that “it’s a new example of the lack of commitment” from the state on the human drama refugees are going through and a “flagrant breach” of human rights.
In keeping with the Spanish president’s request, in the next few days City Council will inform the Ministry for Employment and Social Security and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) of its readiness to take in refugees and ensure that nothing impedes their arrival in Barcelona.