Barcelona | European cities and regions ask for more resources and competencies to receive refugees
At the occasion of an international Forum held in Barcelona on 3 May, organised by DIPLOCAT and Barcelona City Council
Europe currently faces one of its biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII. The arrival of large numbers of refugees in search for asylum is putting some basic European policies to the test, along with the entire European integration project.
The challenge for the EU is twofold. It involves on the one hand the humanitarian emergency coordination amongst the countries resulting from the increasing influx of migrants, and on the other hand, the assuring of integration of the newcomers within the hosting societies.
It is with this context in mind that the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) and Barcelona City Council organised the International Forum on Reception and Integration of Refugees in the European Union, which took place on 3 May 2016 in the modernist building of Sant Pau in Barcelona.
The Forum brought together experts from 23 think tanks, international organisations and NGOs, more than 20 Mayors and representatives from 16 cities, regions and states, from 11 European countries and the USA, who underlined the importance of the role of civil society, cities and regions in the reception and integration of refugees.
Before the Forum
Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia
Some outlook on the future was given by the President of Catalonia, before the inauguration of the event, by saying that all administration should give a common response to the refugee crisis and that the sharing of best practice will prepare all for doing so.
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona
Barcelona City Council showed a strong will to make a difference by engaging in concrete contributions to alleviate the refugee crisis. Combined with its active engagement as Refugee City, which makes it cooperate with other European Refugee Cities, it was obvious to use these connections and invite administrations and civil society associations to talk about their views and experience on refugee reception and integration.
María Jesús Vega, Spokesperson for UNHCR in Spain
The crucial role of local and regional governments in the reception and integration of refugees was also underlined by Spokesperson for UNHCR in Spain, María Jesús Vega.
Albert Royo, Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia
DIPLOCAT made possible the meeting in cooperation with Barcelona City Council. DIPLOCAT ‘s vocation is to stimulate debate and intellectual exchange at international level, with view to provide solutions to questions of international interest, and with Europe witnessing at the moment one of the most serious humanitarian crisis since WWII, the urgency for cooperation at international level was given. Catalonia wants to make its position known with politicians and public opinion at international level, and actively work for a world of peace and human rights.
Inauguration of the Forum by Albert Royo, General Secretary of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, María Jesús Vega, Spokesperson for UNHCR Spain, Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, and Carles Puigdemont, President of the Government of Catalonia.
At the inauguration, the President of the Government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, referred to the current crisis as “the most serious humanitarian crisis since WWII”, and said that we have to go to the root of the problem, while working for the development and stability of the southern Mediterranean. He also said that Europe needs “a common policy on asylum” and recalled that Catalonia is a country that has known exile and is therefore morally obliged to offer answers, despite the reluctance of the Spanish government.
The Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, chose strong words to describe the attitude of the Spanish government, which she considered “shameful, immoral and unjustifiable.” She also accused it of not fulfilling its own commitment, having received only 18 of the 17.000 refugees it had agreed to receive. Colau reiterated Barcelona’s offer to receive refugees and underlined the good relations with the Government of Catalonia for cooperation on this issue. According to Colau, if Europe considers the current crisis only as a problem and not as an opportunity to assume, it is failing its own founding objectives to prevent the repetition of the “dehumanisation” of World War II.
Albert Royo, Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, also took the floor at the inauguration, to explain that the Forum has the dual purpose of analysing how the states and the EU are responding to the crisis and to also analyse public integration policies. With the organisation of conferences like this one, Catalonia shows, according to Royo, that “it is a serious and responsible actor, committed to a more just and democratic world”. Finally, the Spanish spokesperson for UNHCR, Maria Jesús Vega, regretted that the Mediterranean Sea is today “the most lethal frontier”, and that with the figure of 60 million displaced persons “the highest figure ever recorded” has been reached.
Morning session: Europe, facing the refugee crisis
In the speeches and debates, issues such as the role of the EU, the danger of xenophobia, the need for safe ways for the exiled, the slowness of asylum procedures and the different challenges and problems of the various reception and integration policies were dealt with.
At the first panel on the political implications of the refugee crisis spoke, in order of appearance: Pawel Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdansk (Poland); Oriol Amorós, Secretary General for Equality, Immigration and Citizenship of the Government of Catalonia;Maria Lo Bello, Vice President of the Region of Sicily (Italy); Rena Dourou, Governor of the Region of Attica (Greece); Thomas Fabian, Deputy Mayor of Leipzig and Chair of the Social Affairs Forum of EUROCITIES (Germany); Xulio Ferreiro, Mayor of A Coruña (Spain); Annika Forsander, Head of the Centre of Expertise on Immigrant Integration of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy of Finland (Finland); Kalypso Goula, Deputy Mayor of Thessaloniki (Greece); Elly Schlein, Member of the European Parliament (S&D, Italy); Ferran Tarradellas, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Barcelona; and Dominique Versini, Deputy Mayor of Paris (France). The panel was chaired by Carme Colomina, journalist.
At the second panel on the political implications of the refugee crisis spoke, in order of appearance: Jorge Barudy, member of the network Asil.cat (Catalonia); Isabel Fezer, Deputy Mayor of Stuttgart (Germany); José María González, Mayor of Cádiz (Spain); Rafael Grasa, President of the International Catalan Institute for Peace (Catalonia); Ronald Grätz, Secretary General of ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) (Germany); Roberto Jaramillo, Councillor on Transparency, Open Government, Development and Migrants of València (Spain); Kilian Kleinschmidt, Advisor to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany); Mateusz Klinowski, Mayor of Wadowice (Poland); Gabriele Klug, Deputy Mayor of Cologne (Germany); and Mauricio Valiente, Deputy Mayor of Madrid (Spain). The panel was chaired by Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, journalist.
Afternoon session: Good practices on reception and long-term integration of newcomers
The two afternoon sessions were also the opportunity for presenting of good practice examples and specific projects for integration in the medium and long term.
Civil initiatives on reception of refugees
At the third panel on civil initiatives on reception of refugees spoke, in order of appearance: Carme Arenas, President of the Catalan PEN (Catalonia); Myrto Bolota, Coordinator of Solidarity 4 all (Greece); Mansour Esfandiari, Managing Director of the Denmark Cross-Cultural Psychological Consultancy, (Denmark); Alberto Mallardo, member of Mediterranean Hope (Lampedusa, Italy); Juana Martin, Coordinator of the Service to the Refugee, Caritas Barcelona (Catalonia); Estela Pareja, Director of the Catalan Commission for Refugees (Catalonia); Maria Teresa Rojas, Director of Open Society International Migration Initiative (USA); Christina Veloso Pope, Regional Manager of Welcoming America (USA); and Cesare Giacomo Zucconi, General Secretary of the Comunità di Sant'Egidio (Italy). The panel was chaired by Lluís Caelles, journalist.
Best practices on long-term integration of newcomers
At the fourth panel on best practices on long-term integration of newcomers spoke, in order of appearance: Orland Cardona, Head of Unit at the Department of Equality, Immigration and Citizenship of the Government of Catalonia (Catalonia); Josep Cortada, General Director of the Football Club Barcelona Foundation (Catalonia); Eva Dohnalová, Member of the Board of Directors at the Association for Intercultural Work (Czech Republic); Rita Grané, Director of the Association Punt de referència (Catalonia); Bernhard “Felix” von Grünberg, MP for North Rhine-Westphalia and Chairman of the German Tenants Union in Bonn (Germany); Àngels Guerrero, Head of Language Resources of the Government of Catalonia (Catalonia); Beatriz Hernandez de Fuhr, Mentor Network Coordinator at the Danish Centre for Gender, Equality and Diversity (Denmark); Lola López, Commissioner for Immigration, at the Barcelona City Council (Catalonia); and Olga Silfver, Project Manager at the Department of Education of the City of Helsinki (Finland). The panel was chaired by Elena Sánchez, Senior Research Fellow at CIDOB.
The closing session was held by Gerardo Pisarello, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona and Raül Romeva, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency of the Government of Catalonia
At the closing session, the Deputy Mayor of Barcelona City Council, Gerardo Pisarello, spoke in terms of “crisis of civilization” rather than refugee crisis and considered that “while the existing power relations and social and economic policies are not modified, we will not solve the problem.” The last one to take the floor was Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency of the Government of Catalonia, Raül Romeva, who announced the intention to draft a resolution that could summarise the spirit of the Forum and thanked for the offer of the German city of Stuttgart to consider the option to organise a second edition soon. Romeva also noted that neither states nor the EU “have not lived up to expectations, have failed from the political and administrative point of view” and that now is the “time to build and add and correct the erroneous actions.”
In mid-2015, a record-breaking 59.5 million people around the world were forced from home. Among them, there were nearly 20 million refugees. The number of refugees of concern to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reached an estimated 15.1 million, the highest level in 20 years.
According to IDMC’s Global Overview 2015, the increase of internally displaced was the result of prolonged crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria. These five countries represented 60% of the new displacements worldwide.
With more than one million people arriving on European soil (1.011.712), 2015 was also the year, in which the direct humanitarian consequences of these conflicts, especially of the Syrian one, started to be felt massively in Europe.
Even though the majority of Syrian refugees remain within the neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey), data shows that from 1st January to 31May 2016, 204,311 migrants and refugees arrived to Europe by sea and, 5,892 arrived by land. 2,443 died or went missing during the journey.
Faced with this emergency situation, the Government of Catalonia proposed to receive up to 4.500 refugees in Catalonia. Furthermore, Barcelona was one of the first towns of the state to defend the rights of these people to seek asylum, as established in the international law and declared itself Refuge City, whilst encouraging other municipalities to do likewise.
Barcelona City Council and the Public Diplomacy Council incite Catalan society and the Catalan institutions to get engaged in the construction of a just and democratic international society.
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Last updated: 15 September 2016