Yes, we’re providing refuge despite insufficient resources

Yes, we’re providing refuge despite insufficient resources

21/06/2018 - 11:04

Awareness. Experts offer an assessment of the two years since the EU-Turkey deal in a meeting organised by the Fronteres i Drets platform asking ‘Are we offering refuge?’.

Organisations belonging to the collective of jurists Fronteres i Drets invited various experts to assess the status of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in the European Union from a legal perspective, comparing data and looking at the fulfilment index for expectations and commitments.

Presenting the session, the Third Deputy Mayor, Jaume Asens, explained that the latest episode in the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, the emergency with the ship Aquarius, may help put the issue back in the spotlight. However, Asens also warned that the decision by the Spanish state to receive the vessel should not just be a quick makeover or a way of turning the page without going any further.

The Deputy Mayor also outlined action taken by the City Council since 2016, as a ‘surrogate’ administration, guaranteeing rights not currently guaranteed by the state, which is responsible for matters relating to asylum. Besides the different reception programmes (Nausica, Refugiats Benvinguts etc.), Asens insisted that action taken by the City Council has also involved denouncing the Spanish state’s failure to comply with agreements. The City Council is demanding that while the authorities responsible fail to fulfil their commitments, the money received by the EU should be managed by municipal councils or by organisations which are taking in and providing support for people seeking international protection.

Finally, Asens noted that although the people from Syria contemplated by the EU-Turkey deal are not arriving, there has been a considerable rise in the number of refugees arriving from countries such as Honduras, Venezuela and some places along the southern border. This rise is overstretching the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER) and means more funds and resources are needed, over and above municipal funding, to prevent hundreds of people missing out on support.

The lawyer Isabel Baixeres is a key figure in the organisation Stop Mare Mortum bringing a case in the Spanish Supreme Court against the Spanish government for failing to meet refugee reception quotas established in the EU-Turkey agreement. Of the 9,923 people the agreement established for Spain, only 1,359 people have been relocated. The administrative case was accepted for consideration in November and Baixeres explained that the objections made by the Spanish government were rejected by the court, opening up the possibility of a resolution and a sentence soon, perhaps in July.

For his part, Toni Borrell, the spokesman for Stop Mare Mortum, reaffirmed the appropriateness of the proceedings, given the initial response by the court, stressing how necessary it is for people to denounce the real causes of the refugee crisis: the attitude of European states and the responsibility that the capitalist system and its guarantors, powerful companies, have in inequalities and wars in certain countries.

The co-founder of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, Eduard Aguayo, gave details on the action taken by the organisation in the Mediterranean in the last two years, as well as their new programme ‘Feeding minds, saving lives’, promoted in countries of origin in sub-Saharan Africa “to prevent people embarking on the deadliest journey of their lives”.

To round off the overview of all factors relating to refuge, Estel·la Pareja, director of the Catalan Refugee Aid Commission, spoke about the collapse caused by the drain in resources due to cuts, the lack of will from central government and also the reception model. For her, the latter is no different to models in other supposedly more open countries. Pareja offered a positive assessment of how inclusion is addressed from the outset, noting that it’s no good waiting, as the German system does, for the person to be granted refugee status (which can take between two and three years), for instance to start offering classes for people to learn the language of the host country.

The session was organised by the Fronteres i Drets platform, set up in 2016 as the result of an initiative by different jurists’ entities which, seeing the overall shortcomings of legal mechanisms when it comes to asylum, refuge and migration, decided to join forces and highlight the legal side to the crisis.

The entities making up the  Fronteres i Drets platform are: Jutges per a la Democràcia, Sindicat de Lletrats de l’Administració de Justícia, Associació Catalana de Juristes Demòcrates, Associació de Dones Jutgesses, Comissió de Defensa dels Drets de la Persona (part of the ICAB), Unió Progressista de Fiscals and Àgora Judicial.

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