Since January 2015, over 336,000 people have attempted to cross the Mediterranean in attempts to reach Europe and find asylum from the situation in Syria. The conflict has displaced over 11 million individuals and has resulted in over 220,000 deaths. In light of this tragedy the Government of Catalonia, together with various institutions and social entities, has agreed to establish a Working Committee to facilitate the reception and care of the refugees arriving in Catalonia. The committee will meet up on an on-going basis and will start operating as of next Monday when more information is made available regarding the full extent of the situation. The aim of the committee is to give the “necessary support, from the local authorities’ standpoint, to host refugees in the best way possible”, affirmed Vice President Neus Munté during the press conference which followed this morning’s meeting to deal with the migrant crisis.
The meeting was attended by representatives from various Government departments, the Barcelona Town Hall, representatives from the two main municipality associations and the four Provincial Councils of Catalonia (LLeida, Tarragona, Girona and Barcelona). Additionally, the Catalan Cooperation Fund, representatives from the main asylum organizations, Catalonia’s Third Sector association and the Catalan Advocacy Council also attended this morning’s meeting which took place in the Palau de la Generalitat. According to Munté, the objective of the meeting was to “articulate a Catalan response to the next arrival of refugees as a consequence of the humanitarian crisis that has gone on long enough”.
Despite the fact that issues relating to asylum fall under the responsibility of the State government, the lack of a coherent or rapid response by the central administration has driven the Catalan Government to coordinate efforts by various institutions and organizations to deal with the refugee crisis. In this regard, one of the agreements reached during today’s meeting was to formally request the Spanish government to “position itself in a clear manner with regards to the asylum seekers able to reach the State in the coming weeks or months”. Furthermore, the agreement will ask the Administration in Madrid for “more concreteness and transparency with regards to the resources coming from the EU which should be used to facilitate the reception of refugees to the autonomous communities and Catalonia”. These demands will be made within the framework of the meetings convened by the Ministry of Labour scheduled for the coming days and which the Catalan Government will also be attending. In addition to these requests, an agreement was also made to demand the central government to speed up the administrative process by which asylum is granted as the current process is, “excessively long”.