Unanimous standing ovation in parliament for Ukrainian consul
Speaker denounces Russian invasion as 'disgrace and cruelty' and praises Catalan solidarity in welcoming refugees
The Catalan parliament offered a unanimous standing ovation for the Ukrainian consul in Barcelona, Artem Vorobiov, who attended the plenary session on Wednesday along with representatives in the city of the European parliament and commission.
All MPs gave a warm welcome of over a minute to the guests, with some far-left CUP MPs showing posters with signs against war.
The chamber speaker, Laura Borràs, greeted them all denouncing Russia's "aggression."
"In only 13 days, disgrace and cruelty have intensified, with thousands of deaths," she added, saying that two million people have already fled the eastern European country.
"We have to answer firmly, with determination," said Laura Borràs, who praised the solidarity of many Catalans who are lodging some of the over 1,200 refugees already in the country.
Government in favor of Ukraine joining EU
During the plenary session, foreign minister Victòria Alsina said the government supports Ukraine joining the EU and rejects Russia's move.
"We are facing Vladimir Putin's imperialism and authoritarian behavior, denying Ukraine their right to exist," she said, praising the "resilience" of the invaded nation.
"The government backs diplomacy, multilateralism, the EU's tough sanctions, and the EU opening the possibility of Ukraine joining the Union, and says No to Russia's war against Ukraine, so we all together say Slava Ukraini."
While right-wing conservative People's Party spokesperson, Alejandro Fernández, said the executive has links with the Russian government.
"It is useless [for the Catalan president] to write grandiloquent articles in favor of freedom and democracy in Ukraine while has Putin accomplices in his cabinet," Fernández claimed.
Arrival of refugees
In the same session, equality minister Tània Verge said that Catalonia has been preparing for the arrival of refugees in the past two months.
So far, 194 Ukrainians fleeing from war have been lodged in government-funded sites, but the cabinet is working in order to have 2,000 beds ready soon.
Overall, 1,200 people have already arrived from eastern Europe, and most of them are staying in homes of relatives or acquaintances.
Those willing to host minors without guardians have to start the process by sending an email to email@example.com. This is an email address to get in touch with Catalonia's child and teenager care department (DGAIA).
The government's equality department has also set up an email address for Ukrainians arriving in Catalonia: firstname.lastname@example.org. Psychological help, interpreters and legal advice are offered through this email address and the 012 hotline.
The email address email@example.com, set up by Barcelona's lawyers association (ICAB), is also available to provide legal advice for Ukrainians wanting to move to Catalonia. This is part of ICAB's 'Ukrainian Population Assistance', providing legal help not only to potential refugees, but also to NGOs and organizations willing to help in the region.
Catalan and Spanish governments simplify bureaucracy for refugees
Catalonia announced on Tuesday evening that paperwork needed to shelter children from Ukraine has been eased, and called on NGOs and the public to act in coordination with the public administration to make sure kids have a legal guardian and are provided schooling.
The Spanish government is also easing the arrival of refugees, simplifying the bureaucracy they have to go through.
The cabinet meeting on Tuesday agreed that Ukrainians will be able to "directly" obtain residence and work permits.
This is a temporary measure that applies to those fleeing from war, but also to those who were in Spain prior to February 24 and cannot return to their country now.