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Catalan government urges Spain to reject EU plan for migrant centers overseas

Foreign minister Maragall calls on president Pedro Sánchez to move from “gestures to politics”

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21 June 2018 11:59 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan government has urged Spain not to back the European Union plan to open migrant processing centers in North Africa, a proposal to be debated by EU leaders at an emergency summit this Sunday.

At a time when the number of asylum seekers arriving in Spain is soaring, Catalonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernest Maragall, asked president Pedro Sánchez to move from “gestures to politics,” and urged the EU to adapt its refugee policies to the global context in order to “have a tiny possibility of success.”

In a document leaked to the press, such centers are described as “regional disembarkation platforms”: “Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys.”

  • “We all know this is a provisional, insufficient and unsatisfying solution”

    Ernest Maragall · Catalan foreign affairs minister

Nearly 2,000 people arrived on Spanish shores last weekend, according to human rights organizations—a figure which includes 630 migrants saved by the Aquarius rescue ship and stranded in the Mediterranean for a week after Italy and Malta refused to offer them safe harbor.

“We are grateful to Spain for stepping in, even as Italian and other European governments have shamefully failed in their humanitarian responsibilities and placed politics over the lives of vulnerable people,” said Karline Kleijer, head of emergencies at Médecins Sans Frontières. “There needs to be a serious European commitment to save lives and disembark rescued people properly.”

Sánchez’s move was widely applauded by political parties and human rights groups in Spain, although many warned that offering safe harbor was not enough to address the ongoing crisis.

The Catalan government recently met with NGOs and the City Council of Barcelona, among others, to put forward an emergency plan to tackle the "massive arrival of people." Still, Maragall says any solution—no matter how optimal—would not be enough.

“We all know this is a provisional, insufficient and unsatisfying solution,” said Maragall, and he added that increasing public spending from Spain would be needed.

In the first half of the year, some 2,100 people filed asylum petitions in Catalonia, with 43,000 doing so in Spain as a whole. Last year, the figure surpassed the average rate in EU countries for the first time, according to the Catalan Commission for Refugees (CEAR)—which was mainly due to the arrival of Venezuelans.

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