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Catalan Government approves its first International Protection Plan for refugees

On Tuesday, the Catalan Government approved the International Protection Plan of Catalonia, which aims to protect people forced to leave their country for being persecuted. It is the first time Catalonia has its own legal instrument to face the issue of asylum seekers, displaced people and human trafficking victims. This new tool establishes the principles, measures and funding schemes to host and offer protection to people who fled their country due to a grounded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership of a social group, gender or sexual orientation. Among other things, the Plan encourages issuing new proposals to improve the legal status of these people, offer them better training, improve their reception, integration and participation.

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28 January 2014 07:21 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Tuesday, the Catalan Government approved the International Protection Plan of Catalonia, which aims to protect people forced to leave their country for being persecuted. It is the first time Catalonia has its own legal instrument to face the issue of asylum seekers, displaced people and human trafficking victims. This new tool establishes the principles, measures and funding schemes to host and offer protection to people who fled their country due to a grounded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership of a social group, gender or sexual orientation. Among other things, the Plan encourages issuing new proposals to improve the legal status of these people, offer them better training, keep them better informed and improve the reception, the integration or the participation process for a coordinated resettlement in the event of massive arrivals of displaced people.


The Plan targets two different groups of people. On the one hand, it focuses on the persecuted people and, on the other, it is looking to raise awareness among the Catalan society. The Catalan Government’s Plan stresses the need to react on both the political and social fronts to international conflicts that are causing various forms of persecution. It identifies up to nine groups of persecuted people: asylum seekers, unaccompanied persecuted minors, victims of human trafficking, members of mass displacement, tortured people, defenders of human rights, persecuted writers, displaced people and stateless persons.

The initiative is promoted by the Catalan Ministry of Social Welfare and Family. According to government sources it also answers a historic duty since thousands of Catalans were forced into exile after the end of the Spanish Civil War, fleeing to France, Mexico, Argentina, Chile or Italy. Therefore, Catalonia owed the international community an involvement in such an issue. For the Catalan Government having such a Plan is a moral obligation and a democratic open-attitude, which grasps social issues and humanitarian crises occurring in the world and contributes to finding an answer from the solidarity and practical point of views.

The Plan follows several Catalan initiatives to protect refugees

International protection laws include the right of asylum and to shelter, subsidiary protection, resettlement, and temporary protection, for both foreign-nationals and stateless people. The International Protection Plan, which was approved this Tuesday, is the first comprehensive legal tool to globally face this issue. However, it follows various initiatives promoted in recent years by the Catalan Government, along with some municipalities and civil-society organisations in Catalonia.

In 1995, with the collaboration of other countries, Catalonia received refugees from Bosnia during the Balkan War, while in 1999, it welcomed refugees from Kosovo. The Catalan Government has also given financial support to active organisations in the sector and has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Powers regarding asylum seekers are in Madrid’s hands but Catalonia has some room for manoeuvre

The right of asylum, despite being an exclusive jurisdiction of the Spanish Government, allows the Catalan Government to intervene within its own sector jurisdictions based on its own powers. The Spanish legal framework explicitly states that the Autonomous Community governments, such as Catalonia’s, can manage the services and programmes specifically targeting asylum seekers. Sharing management responsibilities regarding international protection between the different levels of government is a necessity, acknowledged as such by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Catalonia’s International Protection Plan is based on a prior working document that gathers inputs from the civil society. The document was compiled by the working group of the Citizenship and Immigration Council, a public body advising the Catalan Government and channelling civil-society participation in the shaping of public policies on migration issues. The participating organisations were NGO ACCEM, the Red Cross, the Catalan Association for Solidarity and Refugee Assistance (Associació Catalana de Solidaritat i Ajuda al Refugiat), the Catalan Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comissió Catalana d'Ajuda al Refugiat), the Catalan Association for the Integration of Homosexuals, Bisexuals and Transgender Immigrants (Associació Catalana per a la Integració d'Homosexuals, Bisexuals i Transsexuals Immigrants), NGO EXIL; the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia (Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya), the Catalan PEN Club; NGO Iniciatives Solidàries; NGO SICAR cat, the City Council of Barcelona and the Directorate General for Immigration of the Catalan Ministry of Social Welfare and Family.

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  • The Catalan Minister for Social Affairs, Neus Munté, at Tuesday's press conference (by P. Mateos)

  • The Catalan Minister for Social Affairs, Neus Munté, at Tuesday's press conference (by P. Mateos)