By road, rail and air: hundreds of Ukrainians continue to arrive every day
5,000 may have already moved to Catalonia, as authorities rush to prepare reception and key town of Guissona approaches capacity limit
Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees continue to arrive steadily in Catalonia every day, using every possible means, including flights, trains and by road.
The Catalan government said on Thursday that 5,000 people may have already arrived, fleeing from the war, although on that day there were just 1,700 registered officially.
Flight chartered by NGOs
For instance, in the early hours of Sunday morning, a flight carrying 220 Ukrainian refugees coming from Warsaw, in Poland, landed in Barcelona airport.
The chartered flight was organized by several groups, including the migrant rescue organization Open Arms, the Solidaire Foundation, run by the Italian airline pilot turned filmmaker Enrique Piñeyro, and the Santa Clara Convent Foundation, led by Sister Lucía Caram. The Spanish consulate in Warsaw, DKV Integralia Foundation, Ergo Hestia and Audax Renewables have also taken part in the initiative.
Around 70 of the newcomers will stay in Manresa, 20 will go to Guissona and 60 will live in Badalona thanks to the solidarity of several families and the Red Cross – the rest traveled on to Madrid on the same aircraft.
Most of the refugees already have links with Catalonia and therefore many will be lodged in the homes of relatives or friends.
200 Ukrainians arrive at Sants station every day
This flight is just one example, with others witnessed every day at Barcelona's main train station, Sants, where around 200 Ukrainians have been arriving daily for ten days.
They are arriving from France, and from Barcelona they are distributed around Catalonia and to other parts of Spain, including Madrid, Valencia, and Alacant (Alicante).
The facility in the Catalan capital is, indeed, the main train hub for Ukrainian refugees in Spain.
The public company managing the service, Renfe, said on Sunday that they have already issued 4,563 free tickets for migrants.
Spain's transport ministry is in charge of the logistics to make sure they all arrive safely at their destination. Special trains are running from Paris to Figueres, Girona and Barcelona until March 16.
Guissona approaching capacity limit
One of the key towns welcoming refugees is Guissona, in western Catalonia – of the small town's population of 7,435, over 1,000 are Ukrainian nationals.
Guissona has a significant migrant population due to the major meat manufacturing company located in the municipality, which includes a large chain of meat and sausage stores across Catalonia called BonÀrea.
On Sunday, the local council said that they had already accommodated 143 people, who are staying in flats and other premises temporarily arranged by the local council, as well as in some residents' homes.
The mayor has warned that they estimate the maximum number of refugees they can take is 200 – local authorities are prioritizing welcoming those with links in the town, and call for neighboring towns to make an effort to accommodate others.
Lleida, the biggest town in the region, has already welcomed around 50 Ukrainian refugees. The local council has called on residents to host those in need and is working to register them in the 'padró' census and to provide schooling to children arriving, as confirmed by mayor Jaume Ars. "Today we are registering [Ukrainians], tomorrow we will probably enroll them in school, but we are also checking that children have a person of reference there," he said.
Adequate funding guaranteed
Meanwhile, road arrivals continue, with buses and private vehicles traveling all the way from the Polish-Ukrainian border since late February. Some have Catalonia as destination, while others are going further south.
That was the case for 50 refugees who spent a night in a sports center in La Jonquera after a two-day journey, before resuming their trip towards Torrevella (Torrevieja). They will stay in homes thanks to the NGO Rowing Together and the Association of Ukrainians in Torrevella.
All administrations in Catalonia are rushing to work together on welcoming Ukrainians, and adequate funding has been guaranteed by Spain in order to manage the arrivals, as agreed in a Spanish leaders' meeting held in La Palma in the Canary Islands on Sunday.