Women on the Move: migrant women, women with rights

  • On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Alboan, Entreculturas, the Jesuit Migrant Service of Spain (SJM) and the Ellacuría Foundation presented Women on the Move, an initiative that focuses on the rights of women and girls, with special attention to migrant and refugee women. 

The Arrupe Etxea center in Bilbao was the venue for the presentation of the initiative with a press conference with the participation of a group of women communicators who recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to meet women who have suffered violence in their migratory processes and who struggle to defend their rights from different spaces. The event was led by the communicator Pili Kaltzada and included the participation of Sara Diego, Alboan advocacy technician; Caddy Abzuda, Congolese lawyer and activist, 2014 Princess of Asturias Award for Concord; África Baeta, journalist of EiTB; Jenny Paula Tenorio, collaborator of the Ellacuría Foundation; and Lucía Rodríguez, head of Advocacy at Entreculturas. 

Against the backdrop of the presentation of the report ‘Women on the Move, the reality of women in migration processes’, a campaign has been launched to collect signatures on the platform visibles.org that aims to incorporate the gender perspective into the Pact on Migration and Asylum that the European Union presented in 2020. To this end, the driving organizations launch five proposals and recommendations so that migrant and refugee women are also considered at the center of European policies on protection and inclusion. The EU document does not recognize the specific violence that women face and increases discrimination and lack of protection. 


SJM demands that the guarantees of the rights of migrants in Melilla do not remain a dead letter

  • After the two attempted jumps in Melilla, it is necessary to identify profiles of special vulnerability and protection needs, such as potential asylum seekers or minors, in addition to informing them of their rights on an individual basis. 
  • Additionally  to the border rejections that have occurred at the fence itself, there is concern that the Spanish authorities may initiate procedures for the return of persons who have arrived at the CETI without having received adequate legal assistance. 
  • In the events of these two days, the number of serious injuries and the violence that is generated and perpetuated in border contexts is impressive.

Madrid-Melilla, Friday, March 4th, 2022. About 3,000 people have tried to jump the fence of the border perimeter of the city of Melilla, of which about 850 have managed to reach the Center for Temporary Stay of Immigrants (CETI). From what the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM) and other organizations have been able to observe, many of the people come from Sub-Saharan countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Sudan, Ivory Coast…) or Arab countries (Syria, Yemen, Libya) where there is an armed conflict ongoing. It is therefore possible that many people are potential asylum seekers . In addition, many of them are young adolescents, which may suggest that some of them are minors and therefore require protection by the Administration.

In both cases, it is necessary that these people receive adequate information about their rights, with appropriate individualized legal assistance, and that protection mechanisms be activated, since the law prevents their return to the country of origin. 

SJM fears that the guarantees of the rights of migrants provided for in the legal system will remain a dead letter. During the jumps there have been refoulements and rejections at the border. Those who managed to reach the CETI have been identified by the Police to initiate the process of refoulement. The existing fear, as on other occasions, is that legal assistance is quick and cursory, without sufficient time to delve into the personal circumstances of each person, in case there are protection needs. In addition, cultural interpretation services are often inadequate. It is likely that Spain will initiate fast-tack procedures of less than 10 days to advance interviews and asylum decisions in order to expedite returns to Morocco: we remain attentive to developments. In any case, it must be ensured that all rights are met.

The events of these days have left terrible scenes. On both the Spanish and Moroccan sides we have seen people with serious injuries that have required hospitalization, also among the State Security Forces and Corps. These injuries can be explained by the combination of damaging architectural obstacles and a disproportionate use, on occasions, of force on the part of the agents, which turns the southern border into a space with a markedly violent character. Particularly worrisome is the fact that many police and civil guards are observed without proper numerical identification.

The SJM works to accompany the experiences of migrants, trying to heal the wounds produced. The legal team of the SJM is mobilized to provide legal assistance in the procedures of refoulement and international protection, while redoubling efforts with other entities present in the field to detect people susceptible to some kind of protection according to Spanish law. As an entity of the Catholic Church, the priority is to be close to the people.

Reponses to the Ukraine crisis

Since last Thursday, February 24th, 2022, when Vladimir Putin’s Russian government decided to launch a military operation to invade Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes to flee to neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania or Moldova. As of March 2nd, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 1 million people have already crossed the external borders in the first week of the war. According to European Commission estimates, between 2.5 and 6.5 million Ukrainians may be displaced by the armed conflict, and between 1.2 and 3.2 million of them will apply for international protection. 

Jesuit social organizations working with migrant and refugee populations have been following the events in Ukraine with particular concern. We join Pope Francis in expressing our sorrow for the “diabolical senselessness of violence” and in asking all parties to “refrain from any action that could cause further suffering”. The international cooperation entities (Alboan and Entreculturas) together with the Xavier Network have activated an emergency protocol to collaborate in the sustainability of the humanitarian programs that the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe and other entities of the Society of Jesus are carrying out, mobilizing resources worldwide to provide immediate support in Ukraine and neighboring. 

The European Union’s response: advocating a welcoming response. 

The European Commission has proposed the application of the Temporary Protection Directive to Ukrainian refugees, which would automatically grant them a residence and work authoritation in member states. The proposal has been approved by the EU on Thursday, March 3rd in Brussels. 

We welcome the initial positive response of the EU Member States, determined to react as a Union and provide protection to people fleeing Ukraine and strongly support the proposal to activate the procedure to provide temporary protection in cases of peak influx of refugees, as foreseen by the Temporary Protection Directive. 

We would like to stress that all persons fleeing the conflict in Ukraine should be able to leave the country, regardless of their nationality. Once they are safe, and in appropriate reception conditions, the protection needs of non-Ukrainian third country nationals can be assessed in accordance with existing procedures and the repatriation of those wishing to return to their countries of origin can and should be facilitated. 

In addition to the immediate response, EU Member States should swiftly discuss and agree on a responsibility-sharing plan, including clear relocation measures, to ensure that the workload in Ukraine’s neighboring countries is kept under control and that EU protection standards and reception conditions can be guaranteed. Finally, it is also imperative to recognize the protection needs of Ukrainians who were already outside the country when the conflict began. 

At the Spanish level: willingness to protect and dialogue between administrations and social entities. 

The Spanish Government has committed itself “to be aligned with the decision to be taken by the Council of the European Union regarding the possible granting of temporary protection in the event of a massive influx of displaced persons and measures to promote an equitable effort among the Member States to receive such persons and to assume the consequences of their reception”. As stated in the institutional declaration of march 1st, “with regard to Ukrainian citizens living in Spain, the necessary measures will be taken to ensure that they can stay and work in our country, have access to health and educational care, as well as to the corresponding social assistance”. 

The Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration has initiated the contacts and procedures to coordinate and prepare the device for the reception of people coming from Ukraine. In recent days, meetings have been held between the Ministry and the Autonomous Communities, with NGO’s that are part of the public system for the reception of refugees and with organizations of the Ukrainian community in Spain

The action of JRS Europe and its national offices with the population fleeing Ukraine (communiqué of March 1st).

In Ukraine: helping those fleeing supporting internally displaced persons.

In Lviv, where JRS is present, the security situation remains relatively calm. Many people are arriving from other parts of Ukraine. Most intend to reach the Polish border and often need support or a place to spend the night on their way. The JRS refugee house, with a capacity of about 20 people, is currently being used used for that purpose. Also the Jesuit retreat house has immediately become a transit house for displaced personas. 

In Romania: JRS in the front line.

Between February 24th and 28th, 70,000 people passed from Ukraine to Romania. Some 30,000 of them left quickly for other EU countries, while 28,000 chose to stay. At the moment, only a small minority officially applied for asylum seekers. Both the Romanian authorities and citizens are showing great enthusiasm for welcoming the people, although there is still a need to coordinate the various responses. 

JRS in Romania is providing support both in the centers for asylum seekers along the borders and to people who are not in the centers, providing welcome packs, acting as a mediator between private donors, government organizations and people in need, supporting people to reach airports and train stations, providing accommodation in JRS’ own shelter and seeking further accommodation for people in need. 

In Poland and Hungary: creating and supporting a reception infrastructure.

Poland is at the moment the country receiving the most arrivals of people from Ikraine. Many are staying with family and friends, as well as traveling to other EU countries. JRS is mobilizing to facilitate the transport of people from the borders, as well as to provide basic supplies and support people in search of temporary accommodation through rental assistance. Additional support in the form of legal, administrative and psychological assistance is being organized. 

At the moment, Hungary is receiving a smaller number of people, including Hungarians who were living across the border in Ukraine. The government has expressed its willingness to support the refugees and the Hungarian population if reacting in a very welcoming manner. JRS has a small presence in the country and is currently assessing how best to be of service. Hungary is traditionally a transit country for refugees, but in this case, if the conflict persists, it is likely that many Ukrainians will want to stay. Therefore, JRS is already looking at medium-term support needs, such as long-term shelter support, alongside more immediate needs such as the provision of food and healthcare. 

In Southeast Europe: preparing from the “second line”.

Taking into account the experience of the Crimean Crisis in 2014, JRS in Southeast Europe (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia) is also preparing into receive some Ukrainian refugees if the conflict persists. The contingency plan is prepared, including the search for possible accommodation in families, parishes and Jesuit houses. Relevant contacts are being established with government authorities and municipalities, such as the city of Zagreb in Croatia, to be prepared with a hospitality-based response in case of need. 


Lumen VII Report: Analyzing the European Union’s Integration and Inclusion Policies in the Migration Agenda. 

In this seventh installment of the Lumen brief reports we want to deepen the initiatives being developed by the European Union within its Migration’s Agenda for next years. 

In particular, we analyzed the European Commission’s Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion. This document is one of the instruments that develop the European Pact on Migration and Asylum in the European Union to which we dedicated the first Lumen report. The approach we propose tries to put both proposals in context and analyze the pillars and main coordinates of the roadmap for migration that is being built. In the light of the data that help to contrast it, we gather the keys to its implications in terms of the narrative on migration, specific policies and the opportunities and challenges it presents us with. 

The European Union’s new roadmap is structured around three main axes: border control, flow control and the promotion of general social cohesion policies with specific support for access to rights for specific vulnerable groups. 

In terms of the narrative, the defense of integration as a bidirectional commitment that requires the contribution of society as a whole seems positive to us. However, it reinforces the idea of “a European way of life” in which the elements of radicalization are an exogenous factor that somehow occur due to the effects of migration. 

The Plan seems to respond more to the immigration that the EU wants to have than to the immigration itn actually has. The proposal focuses on four main axes as key elements in the integration processes: education, employment, health and housing. The reality of mixed migratory flows, irregular immigration and forced migration places migrants in situations of profound vulnerability that require not one-off policies and measures, but comprehensive plans. 

The framework for action has two main implications. On the one hand, it guides  the policies and narratives of member states, ultimately affecting the tools for financing work with the migrant population. On the other hand, it opens the debate on effective legal migration pathways where we have responsibility to participate. 

Prayer vigil in front of Barcelona Center for Detention (CIE) to demand hospitality

More than two hundred people gathered last Saturday, January 22nd, in front of the gates of the Center for Detention of the Zona Franca in Barcelona. It was the eighth edition of a prayer vigil organized by the Migra Studium Foundation group that regularly visits the inmates if the CIE, with the support of some eighty organizations. This year, under the slogan “Enough internment and expulsions, we want hospitality! A cry of denunciation and hope. 

The initiative served to denounce the unjust and useless suffering endured by migrants interned in these centers. This year, the management of the CIE of Barcelona has continued to be marked by the pandemic, with the doors closed and visits prohibited until June 16th. Since then, family members and NGOs have been able to enter in dribs and drabs, and with many obstacles and limitations. Again, a week ago, the right to visitation was lost again, according to the director, due to an outbreak of coronavirus in the center. This deprivation of freedom humiliates, criminalizes and stigmatizes the entire migrant population, which has a negative impact on public opinion. 

The first part of the event consisted in the reading of the witnesses collected by the volunteers of Migra Studium who visit the Center for Detention. The cases of Ahmed, Adil, Salim and Karbal were just a sample of the reality of suffering that is lived behind the walls of a CIE. Testimonies, heard in silence, at the gates of the CIE, echoed the pain, dignity and determination. “I arrived in Europe when I was 15 years old. Now, at 30, I just want to be able to settle here, to make my life, but things are not easy. On the 58th day of detention, I contacted the volunteer, hoping to be realized”, said Ahmed the day before he was expelled; “loneliness, loneliness and more loneliness”, said Salim, expelled in Argelia after 30 days of detention, without warning, hours before Argelia officially closed its border with Spain because of the pandemic. 

The hostility represented by the CIE was contrasted with Amadou and Hafid’s witnesses of hospitality. Migrants or refugees who have been able to count the welcome and support of the families of the Hospitality Network. 

The cold night, the walls and fences drowned, the echo of the public address system breaking the music and the silence and remoteness of the place, served for all those who came to the Zona Franca, to become aware of one of the many black holes of injustice and suffering that our world generates. As the people of Migra Studium usually say; “we will continue accompanying and we will continue denouncing until the last CIE closes”

Report “Immigrant origin population in Spain, 2021”

We publish the annual report ‘Immigrant origin population in Spain, 2021’. A demographic analysis, in the light of official data, of foreign and foreign-born population in Spain and its evolution during the last decade. This time the analysis delves into the consequences that Brexit has had on the population groups of British nationality in Spain, as well as the impact of the closure of international borders during 2020. 

At the beginning of 2021, the foreign-born population accounted for 15.22% of the total population in Spain (7,214,878 people out of the total population of 47,398,695), according to data from the National Statistics Institute. In terms of population with fixed residence, the percentage of foreign residents was 11.33%. 

The variation of total resident population figures had a positive sign: 66,081 more people. A figure lower than the year-on-year variation of almost 400,000 people between 2019 and 2020, but which points to the consolidation of the recovery of migratory figures initiated in 2015, although indicating a moment of clear deceleration. 

In 2020 in which the Spanish population balance was very negative, due to the higher number of deaths compared to births, also as a consequence of the impact of covid-19, the migratory balance amounted to 219,357, much higher than that of the total resident population. 

The Permanent Observatory of Immigration, an entity belonging to the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, estimates that there are 5,800,468 foreigners holding residence permits. A higher figure than those reported by the INE, perhaps explained by the number of people who in practice do not reside in Spain. 

The Brexit has had a clear effect on the foreign population of EU origin: a decrease of more than 300,000 people with citizenship from other EU member states. 

In addition to observing a slowdown in migratory movements in Spain, there has been a significant increase in the resident population born in Colombia (the largest group with an increase of more than 40,000 people). This is followed by those born in Venezuela (more than 30,000), Morocco (more than 22,000) and Honduras (more than 15,000). Peru, Argentina, Nicaragua and Brazil also showed a positive sign. 

SJM Aragon presentation

On Friday 14th, the Jesuit Migrant Service Aragon (SJM Aragon) was presented at the Pignatelli Center’s auditorium. The project is the result of contacts established over the last year with public and private organizations with the aim of setting up a body to study migration in Aragon. On the hand, the aim is to obtain and elaborate statistical data that can help in the desing of public policies. On the other hand, to detect, in dialogue with other associations, those areas in which further research is needed. 

Under the title “From data to questions” the event included three brief presentations. After the greeting of Vicente Marcuello, SJ, Director of the Pignatelli Center, Luis Arancibia took the Social Sector and the SJM network. From his presentation, among other ideas, it is worth highlighting the end. In short, it is about being a sign that encourages hope. 

Adrián Serrano, PhD in sociology and author of the collection and analysis of statistical data done to date, allowed attendees to take a rigorous look at the numerical reality of immigration in Aragon. By blocks, for example, the natural movement of population, employment, or training, he unraveled the statistics that are scattered in the databases of many agencies. 

Manuel Pinos, a member of the Peace Research Seminar, began his assessment if the data presented by Adrian with this question: What scenario do we want to build with diversity? His intervention helped to ground the figures in some of the problems that can be found on the street. It is difficult to propose macro changes, but at the level of daily coexistence it is possible to move towards complete integration. 

The event was well attended by the public. Is it the beginning of a project and as such it has the normal notes of illusion and fragility as well as the need to work with others. 

Lumen Report VI: ‘Life without documentation: a road full of obstacles’.

On the occasion of the International Day of Migrants, which we celebrate on December 18th, we publish the sixth section of the LUMEN technical brief reports. This time, the report, entitled ‘Life without documentation: a road full of obstacles’, addresses the issue of the administrative irregularity in which thousands of foreigners in Spain find themselves and the situations of vulnerability and exclusion that they have to live. 

Irregularity (commonly known as “being without papers”) is a mere administrative situation, it does not imply a crime nor does it have a criminal nature. It can affect many different profiles of the migrant population and for many different reasons. Some of them have just arrived in Spain and see the validity of their visa expire, while others may have been living in a situation of prolonged irregularity for several years. In these cases, many people are forced into the informal economy as a way to survive (with the risk of suffering exploitation and abuse in working conditions), situations of financial exclusion (unable to open bank accounts), or living in fear of possible detention and subsequent expulsion. 

In order to have access to the regularization, the law contemplates the figure of social roots. However, one of the requirements is difficult to comply with, since it demands the possession of an employment contract of no less than one year’s duration. This circumstance does not fit the reality of the Spanish labor market, where precariousness and temporality are very high, especially in the sectors where most if this group in employed. In addition, the bureaucratic deadlines for resolving regularization requests are rarely met within the established periods. The Administration is obliged to respond, but does not recognize the rights of the applicants when these deadlines are not met, a circumstance that could be resolved by dedicating adequate resources. 

Situations of administrative irregularity entail a high degree of anguish, desperation and fear for the people who find themselves in it. The cultural and socioeconomic wealth that our neighbors bring is of incalculable value. That is why in SJM we are called to get closer to the reality they suffer and to defend their rights. We must denounce the situations of violence and exclusion they suffer as a result, in many cases of the impact of administrative irregularity, and work so that they can exercise their rights as full citizens and live with dignity

We present the report “The lack of protection of unaccompanied children at the border”.

Together with Entreculturas, Alboan, SJM Mexico and the Documentation Network of Migrants Defense Organizations of Mexico (REDODEM) we have published the report “The lack of protection of unaccompanied children at the border”. This work was presented on the morning of Thursday, December 16th with a virtual conference.

The report denounces the lack of support networks and the difficult situations that unaccompanied children and adolescents have to go through on their migratory route, where their rights are seriously violated. There is a lack of a solid approach to children and gender realities that addresses the conditions they face during transit and arrival in the destination country, exposed to being victims of human trafficking networks, degrading treatment, exploitation and aggression. 

In addition, at the borders of both countries (Spain and Mexico), unaccompanied children and adolescents are detained in unhealthy and inhumane conditions, where they suffer a situation of helplessness in the country of arrival for weeks of months until they can prove their family ties after separation. Other rights identified as being violated include the right to identity, to be heard, to communicate with family members, to have access to a lawyer or to have translation if needed.

In short, the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocol is not respected and unaccompanied children and adolescents arriving at the borders of Spain and Mexico are treated as adults, thus leaving them unprotected, without taking into account their situation of special vulnerability, forgetting their age and the special protection afforded to unaccompanied children and adolescents by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

When an unaccompanied child or adolescent leaves home, taking into account all the lack of protection they will go through, they do so in order to seek a dignified life with equal opportunities. There people usually suffer structural violence, persecution, aggression or economic reasons in their country of origin for which they cannot continue with their lives in a dignified manner. Furthermore, although the majority of unaccompanied children and adolescents are usually boys, the number of girls has also increased and remains at a worrying level, also fleeing from forced marriages, female genital mutilation or situations of severe vulnerability. 



SJM 2021 Meeting: Seeds of Resistance

On November 10th, 11st and 12nd, the Jesuit Migrant Service held its Annual Meeting 2021 in Madrid, where about 70 people from the network’s entities participated with the motto “Seeds of Resistance”. The meeting took place at the Casa de Ejercicios de las Esclavas de Cristo Rey. 

We began the Assembly on Wednesday, November 10th, when the welcome and reception took place at 7:00 pm. After dinner, an evening was organized as a first contact and meeting point for the participants of the Meeting.

On Thursday morning we began with an Institutional Welcome, where María del Carmen De La Fuente, SJM coordinator, and Luis Arancibia, Delegate of the Social Sector, presented the main challenges and achievements of the network, alluding to the motto of resistance to continue accompanying on a daily basis. After this presentation, with the aim of framing our action and putting a face to the realities seen in the care and accompaniment of migrants in the last year, the dynamic “The faces we see” took place. Through the faces of people who are accompanied, testimonies were presented so that we could see more closely what stories are seen in several of the areas and dimensions of work, from the southern border and Detention Centres , to residential reception and social inclusion. 

Wednesday morning ended with an eye on where we are. A self-diagnosis to make visible where the capacities of the works and the connections of the network are placed. To this end, 5 working groups were created, each with a dimension: protection, reception, residential, inclusion and coexistence. They identified elements defining each dimension, present difficulties and challenges, and connections with the other dimensions. To end the dynamics, there was a sharing among all the participants. 

Finally, as part of the same dynamic, we looked at where we should be in order to change things, with the objective of identifying the needs, challenges and opportunities to accompany, serve and defend the people we are looking at. For this space, based on what was carried out during the morning, the participants were distributed in three spaces: Intervention and Accompaniment, Strengthening and Sustainability, and Raising Awareness and Advocacy. In each space we identified lines of force and common aces to pool all the dimensions and understand where we should be in order to respond the needs and challenges of migrants in the most effective and relevant way. 

Friday morning was entitled “Keys to Resilience”, where some of the network’s colleagues shared their own stories, testimonies of celebration in each of the steps we take together with those we accompany, serve and defend, as well as words of resilience and hope that were shared to support the team in the most difficult moments and continue to look forward without giving up. 

To end the Assembly and before the group photo and the farewell meal, there was an space for closing and recollection of the Assembly in an interreligious key, with an activity in which each person shared the main word that resonates in this Assembly in a little boat that sails in the sea of the day to day in the accompaniment of migrants. 

Thank you very much to all the entities and companions who came to Madrid to share, enjoy and learn in this annual meeting where we recharge strength and energy to continue with our mission and challenges.

SJM is the network of organizations of the Social Sector of the Society of Jesus, organizations that work in the field of migration, which are: Pueblos Unidos Center and Padre Rubio of the Foundation San Juan del Castillo (Madrid), Migra Studium Foundation (Barcelona), Claver-SJM Association (Sevilla), Ellacuría Foundation (Bilbao), SJM Valencia, Red Íncola (Valladolid), Atalaya Intercultural (Burgos), Padre Lasa Center (Tudela), LoiolaEtxea Association (Donostia). The University Institute for Migration Studies (UP Comillas, Madrid) and the Diocesan Delegation of Migration of Tangier (site in Nador) are also part of the network.