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Asylum seekers in Catalonia could triple this year, says human rights group

Commission for Refugees hopes Catalan people will show they are “a welcoming society”

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19 June 2018 11:16 AM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan Commission for Refugees (CEAR) says the number of asylum seekers arriving in Catalonia in 2018 will continue to increase, and it could even triple from last year, when 3,900 people asked for international protection.

The rise of refugees in Catalonia reflects the ongoing trend in Spain, which saw a record-breaking figure of 31,120 petitions in 2017, twice as many as the previous year. For the first time, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Spain surpassed the average rate in European Union countries. However, that was mainly due to the arrival of Venezuelan people.

As petitions grow, also increase the number of rejections. In 2017, Spanish authorities denied 8,675 requests for international protection. Catalonia does not have powers on migration, so it relies on Spanish authorities to authorize, or not, asylum requests.

After a weekend when almost 2,000 people arrived in the Spanish shores, including 630 people rescued by the Aquarius and disembarked in Valencia, human rights groups in Catalonia say the number of arrivals is likely to increase this summer as the weather gets warmer.

  • “We need to rethink asylum and migration policies in our country to abide by human rights principles”

    Estel·la Pareja · CEAR director

“Unfortunately, what happened this past weekend won’t be an exception,” said CEAR director Estel·la Pareja. “Therefore, we need to rethink asylum and migration policies in our country to abide by human rights principles.”

Pareja said the response of Catalan society has so far been “very positive.” She stressed that now the time will come for Catalonia to “really show it’s a welcoming society.”

With some 43,000 asylum petitions awaiting resolution in Spain, Pareja says the system has “collapsed” and urges the Spanish government to take measures in order to promptly respond all petitions.

Ending collective returns of migrants in Spain’s southern border should be among president Pedro Sánchez’s top priorities, according to CEAR. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Spain on a case related to the return to Morocco of migrants who were not subjected to any administrative procedure nor were they given the chance to apply for asylum.

CEAR president Miguel Pajares blames EU countries for failing to implement a migration policy in line with human rights, and stressed that only a tiny minority of asylum seekers worldwide arrive in Europe. With some 3,5 million refugees, Turkey alone hosts more asylum seekers than all EU countries combined.

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  • Migrants rescued by the Aquarius arrive in the port of Valencia (by MSF/Kenny Karpov)

  • Migrants rescued by the Aquarius arrive in the port of Valencia (by MSF/Kenny Karpov)