500 Ukrainian refugees arrive in Barcelona

Red Cross has 400 beds available and says one in five refugees requires accommodation

A family from Jaén welcomes Ukrainian relatives arriving on a flight from Poland at Barcelona-El Prat airport, March 5, 2022 (by Sílvia Jardí)
A family from Jaén welcomes Ukrainian relatives arriving on a flight from Poland at Barcelona-El Prat airport, March 5, 2022 (by Sílvia Jardí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 7, 2022 01:56 PM

Around 500 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Barcelona in the last few days, according to the Red Cross, including 227 who flew into Barcelona-El Prat airport on Sunday.

The Red Cross is handling the reception of people arriving from Ukraine, both at the airport and at Barcelona Sants train station.

Many of the refugees have contacts in Catalonia already but around one in five needs accommodation.

Enric Morist, coordinator of the Red Cross in Catalonia, told Catalunya Ràdio on Monday that there are around 400 beds currently available, but that these will be used up soon and efforts are ongoing to source more.

Morist said that refugees began arriving over the past week in small numbers but that bigger groups landed over the weekend.

Some of the refugees have a final destination that is in another part of Spain, others have come to Catalonia specifically because they have acquaintances, while others still have no contacts or accommodation on arrival, he explained.

Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, told RAC1 radio that the city is "ready" to receive more refugees and welcomed the fact that the various administrations are working together in order to do so.

100 child refugees from Nikopol orphanages

Around 100 child refugees from the Ukrainian city of Nikopol will be welcomed to Catalonia in the coming days.

TANU, a charity based in Terrassa that has managed programs bringing children from Nikopol to Catalonia since 1999, has launched a special initiative to find foster homes to take in refugees from orphanages in the city.

Temporary custody has already been given to families who have offered to help, many of whom have already taken in children via TANU.

The majority of the boys and girls arriving already have a basic level of Catalan or Spanish, as many of them have stayed with Catalan host families previously during Christmas and summer vacations, as part of the NGO's program.

On this occasion, however, the war in Ukraine means that they will stay in Catalonia for as long as necessary, until it is safe for them to return.

Catalonia's department of social rights is in the process of conducting preliminary interviews with 92 foster families ahead of the children's arrival. The department will monitor the care of the child refugees for the duration of their stay in Catalonia and manage their health and education requirements.

1.7 million refugees

The number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing since the Russian invasion of their country on February 24 has risen to 1,735,068, the UN said on Monday.

Poland is the main destination for refugees with 1,027,603 (59.2%). A total of 180,163 Ukrainians have fled to Hungary, 128,169 to Slovakia and 82,762 to Moldova. Some 53,300 Ukrainians have left for Russia.

The UN estimates that 4 million people could leave Ukraine and says they need "protection and support."

Guissona: Little Ukraine in Catalonia

The small town of Guissona near Lleida in the west of Catalonia has already welcomed 44 Ukrainian refugees. They are, for the most part, women and their young children who have family ties with residents of the town. Of the small town's population of 7,435, over 1,000 are Ukrainian nationals.

The mayor of Guissona, Jaume Ars, said that there are no teenagers among these refugees, but many of the children are between 8 and 10 years old.

Ars said that they can accommodate up to a hundred people in shared rooms and flats, as well as in the parochial houses of the villages of Ivorra and Sanaüja. However, he warned that this may be insufficient. "We are seeing that it will be a constant trickle and it may be that as a municipality we will not be able to provide a response."

Meanwhile, a summer camp straddling the counties of Pla de l'Estany and Garrotxa in the north of Catalonia welcomed 50 Ukrainian refugees over the weekend.

Again, most of them are women with their children, according to the director of El Collell, Jordi Llopart. They arrived by coach thanks to the help of the NGOs Coopera and Acció Familiar in Barcelona.

Helplines and hostels

As of Friday, 164 Ukrainians were staying in facilities of the Catalan Hostel Network (XANASCAT), according to the Department of Social Rights.

A total of 104 people are in the Coma-ruga hostel, 28 in Vic, 25 in Barcelona and seven in L'Espluga de Francolí. The consulate has stated that there are a total of 253 people who may take advantage of this service.

The Catalan government has also launched an emergency helpline and email address for Catalans in Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Victòria Alsina told TV3's 'Planta Baixa' program that it was created as part of the executive's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, alongside work being done to set up all the infrastructure required to be able to take in Ukrainian refugees.

Barcelona will have one of the three largest reception centers for Ukrainians in Spain. The Spanish migration minister told Spanish radio station RNE, that Madrid and Alacant (Alcante) will also have reception centers, saying the three locations were "close to the main networks of the Ukrainian community."