Politicians responsible for refugee quota failure, says NGO
Casa Nostra Casa Vostra’s Virginia Sánchez says activists who help asylum seekers are criminalized
The platform ‘Casa Nostra, Casa Vostra’ (Catalan for ‘Our Home, Your Home’) blames politicians for failing to abide by the European Union’s quota system to relocate refugees. “Not only that, they’re also criminalizing the people who try to save their lives,” says Virginia Sánchez, a spokesperson for the organization. In February last year, ‘Casa Nostra, Casa Vostra’ organized a half-million strong march in Barcelona—Europe’s largest show of support for refugees. So far, Spain has welcomed 2,782 people, only 16% of the refugees it pledged to host under the quota system.
More than a year ago, you called a massive demonstration to demand politicians act on Catalan society's will to welcome refugees. What is the situation like today? Is it any better?
First of all, I would like to say that it was amazing that half a million people took to the streets to support the rights of migrants and refugees. I would also like to underline the two sides of the issue: on the one hand, we have a society that is really aware of the rights of migrants and refugees, and they're also willing to welcome them and mobilize in order to help these people here. But on the other hand, we have the politicians. They haven't been up to our demands and Spain has to welcome 17,337 people. When the date expired on September 27 , they were only at 11%. Now we're at 16% of the total, so it's nothing.
Who is to blame for this situation?
Actually the politicians. The Spanish government hasn’t fulfilled the EU quota it committed to. Not only that, they’re also criminalizing the people who try to save these people’s lives. For instance, there’s the Helena Maleno case [an activist under investigation in Morocco for criminal association and fostering illegal immigration]. The EU is not punishing the countries that haven't met these quotas.
What is the situation of the refugees who are already living in Catalonia?
Only a few of them are good, because they have a network. A lot of Catalan volunteers went to the refugee camps to help, so a lot of refugees who stayed in Italy and Greece wanted to come to Spain because they already have a network here. But the ones who don't face a very difficult situation. They are finishing the first step of the program to welcome them, and now they have to look for a flat and a job, and it's not easy. In cities like Barcelona it's even difficult for me. And I have a job, I'm from here, I have a family, and I have a salary. But they face a lot of problems. Also, regarding education, when they try to restart their education, sometimes they’re not able to show what they've done before, they don't have the academic diplomas, it's not easy to validate them here. The situation for them is not as easy as we would like. As a society, we have to continue pushing our governments. Just as a friend of mine always says, in fighting for their rights, we're also fighting for our rights.