This week, the Labour, Social Affairs and Family minister, Dolors Bassa, called on the European Commission to provide more aid to help meet the urgent humanitarian needs of asylum seekers in Catalonia. During an informational press conference held on Wednesday, Bassa explained that in light of State’s inadequate management of the refugee crisis, the Government of Catalonia will apply for access to the European Refugee Fund (ERF) to support Catalan institutions in receiving refugees and displaced persons. Access to the fund would also consolidate the Government’s resettlement programmes for the integration of persons and provide for emergency measures to address the arrival of Syrian refugees.
The shortcomings of the State’s international protection system, as well as the opacity and rigidity found in the current European system are, according to Bassa, the main obstacles for hosting refugees in Catalonia. In this regard, the Minister noted the “institutional disloyalty” by the Spanish government towards its own autonomous communities, as it prevents administrations to have proper access to information for the efficient management of displaced persons.
The Minster of Labour, Social Affairs and Family also made reference to Article 138 of the Statute of Autonomy, which recognises the Generalitat’s powers in matters concerning immigration, specifically:
- Exclusive powers regarding the initial reception of immigrants, which includes socio-sanitary attention and guidance
- Development of integration policies for immigrants
- Establishment and regulation of the required measures for social and economic integration of immigrants and for their social participation
- Establishment by law of a referential framework for the reception and integration of immigrants
- Promotion and integration of returning immigrants and their assistance, and facilitation of their return to Catalonia through the pertinent policies and measures
Moreover, the Minister explained that the Government is prepared to receive “up to five thousand refugees for the next two years, which represents 0.06% of the Catalan population”. In this regard, Catalonia “has the capacity” to host more refugees than those currently being admitted, Bassa added.
The Minister also noted that the Generalitat is collaborating with town and city halls in order “to collectively strengthen services aimed at refugees and to successfully manage the various living situations that can arise”. Furthermore, Bassa stated that the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family shares the view of many humanitarian agencies that disapprove of Spain’s inflexible asylum system. In this respect, the Catalan minister saw “important deficits” in the State’s programme, such as the necessity of a stable universal coverage system that can “meet the needs of asylum applicants that are already here but have to wait three months before receiving an answer from the State”. “We are prepared to cover these deficits in order to go where the State isn’t able to”, announced the Minister.