151 Ukrainian children without legal guardians in Catalonia

Opening of refugee welcome center in Barcelona could face delay

Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja talks to the press after a cabinet meeting, March 15, 2022 (by Jordi Bataller)
Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja talks to the press after a cabinet meeting, March 15, 2022 (by Jordi Bataller) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 15, 2022 07:36 PM

A total of 151 child refugees have come to Catalonia from Ukraine without any legal guardian, the government said on Tuesday. The executive has approved emergency measures to deal with the arrival of under 18s, especially those unaccompanied by an adult.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, a total of 5,900 people fleeing the conflict have arrived in Catalonia and around 300 children have already been enrolled in Catalan schools.

The DGAIA (General Directorate of Child and Adolescent Care) is responsible for handling unaccompanied minors and making initial assessments. They will oversee the process of finding foster families for the children and ensuring they are registered with health and education authorities.

The DGAIA will work with the Ukrainian Consulate in Barcelona, as well as police and the health and education departments regarding the management and processing of all relevant documentation.

Welcome center

The large welcome center being set up at the Fira de Barcelona exhibition hall to facilitate Ukrainian refugees may not be ready to open on Friday as planned.

In an interview with Catalan public broadcaster TV3 on Tuesday, Spain's minister for inclusion, José Luis Escrivá, said that while he still hoped the center would be in place on time, he couldn't guarantee it, as "operational logistics" could see the opening delayed.

The center will serve as a first point of contact for refugees with various bodies, including police, the ministry and the Red Cross.

The center will only operate during the day and people who do not have accommodation allocated to them will be temporarily put up in hotels. "There are about a thousand hotel places," Escrivá said.

The minister stressed that it was very important that people displaced by the war in Ukraine can be documented and taken care of from the outset.

"This means that from day one they have the right to reside and work in Spain," as well as other rights as refugees, such as the right to accommodation, legal aid or psychological support. The center will be open "for as long as necessary," the minister said.

Barcelona City Council said it hopes that Ukrainian refugees that go to the reception center will be able to make an process their work and residence permits in two hours.

3 million refugees

The UN estimated on Tuesday that 3 million people have fled Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, with the vast majority of those, 1.8 million, in Poland. In addition, there are also 2 million internally displaced Ukrainians within the country itself.