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Pro-refugee activist wins 2015 Catalan of the Year Award

The Catalan of the Year Award for 2015 has been given to Òscar Camps, activist and director of the NGO Pro-Activa Open Arms. Pro-Activa Open Arms has been fighting since 2014 to save refugees´ lives in the Aegean Sea and on the island of Lesbos. The other two finalists were prominent journalist Josep Maria Espinàs and Pau Dones, a well-known singer who recently won his battle with colon cancer. The award is organised by the newspaper ‘El Periodico’, and it is decided upon through votes submitted by readers of the newspaper. Also awarded was the group ‘Stop Mare Mortum’ (SMM), for Best Solidarity Initiative, and the Simon Holding Industrial Group, for Best Business Initiative. 

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08 April 2016 02:48 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- Pro-refugee activist Òscar Camps director of NGO Pro-Activa Open Arms, has been awarded the 2015 Catalan of the Year Award. The award, which was born in 2000, has been awarded each year to prominent citizens who have developed their social or professional activity in the past year. Camps was given the award through votes submitted by readers of the newspaper ‘El Periodico’, and received the award at a ceremony on Thursday. Pro-Activa Open Arms is an NGO from Badalona, a city to the north of Barcelona. Starting from September of 2014, the NGO has been assisting refugees, primarily from Syria, on the island of Lesbos. The other two finalists were journalists Josep Maria Espinàs and singer Pau Donés. Additionally, the Mercé Conesa award for Best Solidarity Initiative was given to citizen organisation Stop Mare Mortum (SMM), and the distinction for Best Business Initiative was awarded to Simon Holding, an electrical equipment manufacturing company. 


The Catalan of the Year Award, organised by the ‘El Periodico’ newspaper, acknowledges the extraordinary achievements of Catalans in differing fields. Among the recipients of the award one can count politicians, musicians, researchers, athletes, journalists and philanthropists; one can even find a concentration camp survivor and an FC Barcelona coach. Most recently, the award was given to Lucia Caram, a Dominican nun, and before that to Josefina Castellvi i Piulachs, an oceanographer and the first woman to lead a scientific base in Antarctica. Contestants for the award are first selected by a panel of experts in differing social fields, and then voted for by the readers of ‘El Periodico’. 

The Pro-Activa Open Arms organisation, the leader of which has received the 2015 Catalan of the Year Award, has a lot of experience with helping and rescuing people who are fleeing from their country. As the organiser of the association stressed, “we are professionals who work on the Spanish coasts and we are the only rescue NGO that works at sea”. Through the documentary ‘To Kyma: a Rescue in the Aegean Sea’ by David Fonseca and Arantza Diez, the work of Òscar Camps’ team became known, along with that of their colleagues at Pro-Activa, thereby revealing Europe´s apathy. 

After receiving the award, Camps asked himself whether he deserved it. “I really wish I had never deserved it. In Lesbos, my team and I saw Europe´s great apathy towards what was happening in its waters and on its coasts”, he said. The activist noted that “with a few volunteers” they did “more, in this crisis, than 28 governments of the 21st century”. 

He deplored that, in the Aegean Sea, “hundreds of people have died, and there were only volunteers, there”. He criticised the EU for having “focused its resources on expelling refugees, in an ostentatious and disproportionate operation”. He noted that the reason for this exodus is being ignored, and that it’s “wars that oblige people to flee death”. “We have saved lives each day, we’re doing as much as another human being can do for another, to save their life”, he added.  

Also a finalist was musician Pau Donés, singer and frontman of rock group Jarabe de Palo, who, in September 2015, was forced to cancel the band´s entire tour to undergo treatment for colon cancer. After fighting the disease and destigmatising it, last Tuesday, Donés announced that he had recovered from the illness.  

The third finalist was Josep Maria Espinàs, one of the most renowned Catalan journalists and writers. Espinàs has been working in the press for his lifetime, with articles published in newspapers such as ‘Avui’ and ‘El Periodico’. The journalist has also published some twenty books, ranging from novels to travelogues. 

Simon Holding and Stop Mare Mortum 

The Simon Holding industrial group, manufacturer of electrical equipment, has won the Best Business Initiative Award for 2015. The prize was given to acknowledge the company´s ample international presence, with its innovative capacity and 67% of its revenue coming from abroad. These two factors, according to the company’s managers, “have been essential to overcome the profound setback which the business suffered following the housing crisis”. The company is present in 93 countries, more than 3,800 employees constitute it, and it was born 100 years ago in Olot, a Catalan town near the border with France. Luis López Barren, executive director of Simon Holding, has noted that this award is “recognition of the effort and work done by various generations that have fought to be international leaders in the field of electrical equipment and lighting”. 

The Mercé Conesa award for the Best Solidarity Initiative was given to the group ‘Stop Mare Mortum’ (SMM), a non-profit organisation made up of citizens and entities, organised as an assembly. The platform came into existence soon after the sinking of a vessel on the 19th of April 2015, during which more than 700 people who were trying to reach European coasts died. Upon being given the award, Sònia Ros of Stop Mare Mortum accused many EU leaders, voicing the frustration which gave birth to the organisation one year ago. “Us people of the Mediterranean feel open, welcoming and supportive, as do all the people around the world, but you, leaders of the government, who are agreeing upon murderous laws, who are deciding who comes through and who doesn´t, who lives and who dies, you are not welcome in our societies, and you do not represent us. You represent an unsupportive, xenophobic and murderous Europe”, she stated. 

The award ceremony was celebrated at the Great Hall of the National Theatre of Catalonia, during which musician Joan Miquel Oliver and singer Ramon Mirabet performed. The performance ended with a song interpreted by Pau Donés, one of the finalists to receive the award. 

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  • Activist and NGO Proactiva Open Arms' director Òscar Crespo (by ACN)

  • Activist and NGO Proactiva Open Arms' director Òscar Crespo (by ACN)