Asylum is the protection that people can ask for to states if their liberty, their basic rights or, even, their life are persecuted at the origin country. When a person obtains this right, the State that has granted it cannot expulse nor return him/her to his/her country nor extradite.
In Spain, the Convention on the Refugees Status that came into effect in 1978 specifies that refugees have the same rights as all other people. In addition, the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights obliges the State to guarantee an adequate level of life to the refugees, including food, clothing and housing, among others.
Catalonia cannot grant the right of asylum no anybody because it hasn’t got the competences. However, the Catalan administrations can do something about it, actually a lot. Firstly, the government of the Generalitat and the Parlament can put some pressure on the Spanish government in order to make it comply with the welcoming commitments of the State with the EU.
Moreover, the Generalitat can work to ensure a good welcoming to the refugees, through health, education, housing and social care policies. The Generalitat does have competences in these fields, because the Law of Asylum specifies that the Autonomous Regions must manage the attention to be paid to the people seeking asylum, in coordination with the Spanish State government.
Because there is no political will. The European Union has mechanisms to distribute refugees to the member states, through reallocation or family-regrouping programmes. But the states do not comply with their duties. And some less than others. E.g.: Spain commited itself to welcome and give asylum to 17.337 people, and in one year, only 1% has arrived.
All across the world, just ten countries that represent less than 2,5% of world GDP – Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan – receive the 56% of the refugee population according to International Amnesty.
A person must leave their homeland when he/she finds it impossible to carry out their personal or social project, and this can happen due to several reasons:
War. In any conflict, there is a sector of the population that doesn’t want to get involved as a combatant due to anti-militaristic ideology, to familiar responsibilities, to fear or simply because he/she doesn’t endorse the war. Nowadays, there are armed conflicts in the world and 83 tension situations, according to the School of Peace Culture.
Poverty, due to the general situation of the country, to the resource exploitation by foreign companies and, in general, due to few possibilities for personal development.
Climate change, that causes natural catastrophes, the desertification of entire regions and environment alterations.
Ideology. In some countries, there are persecuted ideologies and death or prison threats.
Sexual orientation and gender identity. There are people who cannot live their identity and their sexuality freely, and must flee from their countries, where they can be persecuted, discriminated or even, punished with a death sentence.
Yes. Numbers are really distressing. According to ACNUR, 65 million people live out in the work and, indeed, this is a record since the Second World War. This happens because there are wars in Middle East, right now in Syria, and the wars are the main reason why a person leaves his/her home. And we must remember that these wars count with the participation of foreign powers, such as European countries, USA and Russia.
From Maghreb to the southern border line. The migrant people cross Ceuta and Melilla to the Spanish coast, and from Alger, to the French one.
From Turkey to the Greek islands. It is a route that you can make in a ferry with European passport, in one hour and with a ticket that costs between 5 and 20 euros. With a Syrian or Middle East passport, you can cross in a little and dangerous boat, it costs between 1.000 and 2.000 euros and the journey takes 4 hours already. The coming into force of the Turkey-EU treaty closed this route and promotes the following one.
From Lebanon and Egypt to Italy. Here, the distances are longer, and the route more dangerous. The boats try to arrive at Lampedusa or at Sicily, but many don’t achieve it and must be rescued by the coast guard or by international NGOs.
Other inland or Atlantic-waters routes must be added to these Mediterranean-waters routes, such as the path through the English Channel and the refugee camp recently dismantled, in Calais (France).
The Catalan society wouldn’t be like it is without the inheritance of all those who have stepped into our home and lived in it. The barretina (Catalan beret) has a Turkish origin, the tomato comes from America and the tapas are from Andalusia. The Catalan culture is rich because it is a mosaic of historical contributions. Instead of denying them, we must manage them, because choosing a religion and customs should be voluntary and enriching, not imposed and sectary.
And, in addition, it will be a good thing for the economy. Europe has an old population. The main reason is the culture of having few offspring. The majority of migrant cultures not only provide labour to revitalise the economy but also provide a future with possibilities of a lifely economic activity with future also.
We must speak clearly: Europe is breaking the international law of human rights. Instead of making efforts to welcome refugees and establish legal and safe routes that do not put life at risk out in the sea, the European Union is showing a distressing lack of humanity.
It has signed an agreement with Turkey that means denying the right of asylum to people and, if need be, deport them. And be warned, it is now negotiating similar or even darker agreements with the Lebanon and Sudan.
There are all sorts of camps, but all of them concentrate loads of people with no possibility of socially and personally developing. Hygienic conditions are questionable and food doesn’t meet every person’s needs. No inclusion or preparation actions are carried out. If it weren’t for the volunteering, not even schools would be there. People impoverish in all senses because they cannot work nor develop both culturally and socially.
Many want to but can’t. In Syria, for example, half the population has fled. Every 7 out of 10 don’t have drinkable water and 50% cannot get more than one meal per day. It is estimated that, after the war, one of every four kids will develop mental disorders after the war and that the country’s economy will have gone back 30 years. Don’t you think they have enough reasons to flee the country?
In the middle of the crisis in Catalonia, we had 17% unemployment amongst people born in in the country, and 31% amongst the migrant population. This already makes it clear who is more affected by unemployment. People coming from abroad face problems when homologating their degrees/certificates they achieved in their countries, they don’t have access to education during the migration and, when they arrive at a new country, they very often accept any job, as badly paid as it may be. Thus, instead of thinking whether migrant people or refugees steal our jobs, we should plan how to guarantee them a better integration with the working environment in Catalonia.
Estem vivint el més gran desplaçament de persones des de la Segona Guerra Mundial a conseqüència dels fets que ara s'estàn produïnt a l'Orient Mitjà, però hem de pensar que aquí encara hi hauríem de comptar totes les persones, els desplaçaments que s'han produït a Amèrica Llatina i que s'estan produïnt a Amèrica Llatina a partir de conflictes interiors i moviments que existeixen. Tots els que s'han produït al llarg dels anys de la descolonització d'Àfrica, els mateixos que s'han produït a Àsia o bé les circumstàncies més diverses, que molta gent ha hagut d'abandonar el seu territori, la seva casa, la seva vida, la seva gent, per sempre més, el seu horitzó vital. Però clar, hem de recordar amb importància que els catalans ho vam viure, això. Després d'una guerra civil provocada per un exèrcit facciós, 470.000 persones van estendre's per tot el món. Algunes van retornar però moltes es van quedar a fora, i aleshores algú ens va acollir.I hi ha una cosa que és la més injusta de totes les coses del món: aquests nens, aquestes nenes, aquests senyors, aquests ancians, aquestes famílies, tot el seu projecte vital, tota la seva vida, totes les seves circumstàncies, tot això és destruït per una injustícia. I tots, tenim dret a poder viure i trepitjar i conviure en aquest planeta que ens pertany a tots.
Refugees don’t bring terror with them: they are escaping from it. Many times, sensationalist press says that “if we accept these refugees, terrorists will come with them”. This is a malign lie. The terrible terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels were carried out by people born and educated in Europe. And if groups such as Al Qaeda or Daesh wanted to send agents from the Middle East, they would wear suit and tie and would travel by plane. They wouldn’t risk their lives in open boats.
In many cases, we are late already. Lots of people looking for refuge in Europe cannot wait for their countries one minute longer and need to flee urgently. It’s a matter of life or death.
However, we can help them from here, remembering among other things that our governments are responsible for many policies that provoke the migrations and the asylum applications. We can put pressure on our governments in order to make them issue fairer policies, on our banks to prevent them from investing money in armaments and on domestic companies to prevent them from exploiting the countries they are getting raw materials or cheap labour from.
People escaping from a war or from poverty do not need “integration demands”. They need, as everyone, a society that respects them as people. The general experience is that if a society really welcomes refugees, these feel comfortable and are willing to take part in it. Exclusive societies are the ones that create ghettos.
There is space. In Catalonia, there is over one million people from abroad, lots of whom have come during these last years to live and work here. The Catalan Parliament has committed itself to welcome just 4.500 refugees. The sum compared to the overall population is really tiny.
But in addition, we must remember one thing: during the civil war, Catalan cities such as La Garriga tripled the population welcoming people fleeing fascism.
There is always money according to what is put on. Last year, the European Union put into the office that is responsible for asylum issues, the EASO, less than 15 million euros. On the other hand, Frontex, the agency that watches borders to prevent the entrance of anyone into Europe, received 114 million euros. And, all in all, the European states put 300.000 million euros into military expenses.
This was already said by the Nazis and now Plataforma per Catalunya (a ultra-right-wing Catalan political party). For right-wing and ultra-right-wing parties, the new version of the slogan is: “before welcoming refugees, we should pay attention to people from here”.
But precisely parties promoting these arguments don’t do anything to improve social services for the “people from here” but the opposite. We mustn’t put barriers to solidarity.