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. 

YOU CAN SUPPORT HERE THE ACTION OF JRS WITH PEOPLE DISPLACED BY THE WAR IN UKRAINE.

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. 

Returns of unaccompanied minors to Morocco must be immediately halted by the Spanish Government.

In view of the returns being carried out since August 13th to Morocco of unaccompanied foreign minors under the guardianship of Ceuta, the Jesuit Migrant Service is concerned about the violation of children’s rights that this may entail. For this reason, it requests the Spanish Government to halt all pending returns until the competent institutions have analyzed the circumstances of each minor. 

Any unaccompanied foreign child or adolescent, due to his or her minority, is protected by a series of national, European and international child protection regulations. The competent organizations responsible for their administrative guardianship and the public prosecutor’s office must ensure that any action taken respects the best interests of the minor. The repatriation of a minor has such an impact on his or her vital circumstances that the law establishes a procedure that is particularly protective of his or her interests. 

SJM joins the public statements of the Ombudsman of Spain, the General Council of Spanish Lawyers and various organizations defending human rights and working with migrant children,  to denounce important indications of violation or our legal system by the Government of Spain to carry out these days the repatriation of minors under guardianship by Ceuta. 

CIE 2020 Report “Legal sense and political nonsense”

We publish the CIE 2020 Report: “Legal sense and political nonsense”, the eleventh study on Immigration Detention Centres (CIE by its Spanish acronym) in the SJM report series.

On this occasion, the work focuses on detention care in times of coronavirus, the most relevant circumstance of 2020. The insufficient health care in CIEs and the need to improve their diagnostic, treatment and referral capacities are facts that set the direction of the report. More specifically, this study deals with the case of Samba Martine, a Congolese woman who died in the CIE of Aluche because she did not receive health care, and the State’s financial responsibility towards Samba’s mother and daughter.

We also analyse the structural issues that SJM monitors year after year: rights monitored by the Ombudsman, articulation between the observation carried out by civil society… Finally, we address the investment plan for the CIEs between 2019 and 2024, drawn up with the intention of reforming the existing ones and starting work on a new CIE in Algeciras, a political will that confirms the budgetary effort allocated to these constructions.

For yet another year, we are launching this report to help measure and disseminate the exact scope of detention centres, thus offering an invitation to critical thinking about what happens inside them in order to achieve the end of the precautionary detention of foreigners and, until that moment arrives, a guaranteed achievement of Human Rights in them.

Download here the CIE 2020 Report – Spanish

Download the Annex of statistical data – CIE 2020 Report SJM

Download the Catalan version

Download the abridged version in English

First meeting of volunteers of the Immigration Detention Centers Visits Programme

On 12 May, for the first time, a meeting was held for all the volunteers who are part of the visiting teams to the CIEs (Immigration Detention Centers) in Barcelona, Valencia, Algeciras and Madrid. It was a virtual meeting where the volunteers themselves had the opportunity to get to know each other better and exchange experiences of a common work, such as “accompanying, serving and defending” the people who are interned in the CIE.

Volunteers – old and new – have put into words the feelings aroused by knowing and accompanying those who are deprived of their freedom behind bars “dreamcatchers”, as they defined the CIE. During the meeting, Cristina Manzanedo and Ilham Ennmer shared their testimonies with us, bringing us closer to life stories with which a bond is created that goes beyond the visits, and people to whom we try to give back the dignity they believe they have lost by being interned in these centres.

Cristina told her story following up the case of Samba Martine, a Congolese woman who died in the CIE of Madrid ten years ago due to an accumulation of medical negligence, and Ilham, on her part, shared her experience as a translator in the CIE of Algeciras, a city which, she said, she could not see in the same way since she started volunteering; her perception of the place changed even in the daily things, such as walking through its streets or bathing on the beach.

The meeting highlighted the importance of networking and the necessary convergence between legal work and citizen mobilisation to achieve a fairer world free of these centres for the detention of foreigners.

The general feeling of gratitude for being able to share stories and recharge each other’s batteries was mixed with those shared feelings that came to light when talking about such hard work: “Powerlessness, but also hope for the commitment of so many little people”. In the space there was also room for suggestions and no one better than those people who cross the doors of the CIE to do so.

WE THANK all the people who give their time to accompany those who are on the other side of the walls of a CIE, being an example of service and testimony of hope to continue “rowing all towards the same goal, leaving aside borders”.

We publish our report “Focusing our gaze: towards a holistic model of hospitality that puts people at the centre”

With the arrival of Covid-19, EU Member States began to take measures to limit contagion: confinement, social distance, restrictions on national and international mobility… These measures had direct consequences on applicants for international protection, as JRS Europe analyses in its report From Bad to Worse: Covid-19 Deepens the Gaps in Refugee Reception Systems, a publication that studies the impact of Covid-19 on reception conditions for refugees.

In the case of Spain, we recognise elements in common with those presented at the European level, although we identify particularities related to the specific policies adopted in Spain to mitigate the health crisis, as well as coinciding with the process of transformation of our reception system. In this context, we asked ourselves: What contributions can SJM make to a new model of reception, and what lessons learned could be added to the model?

This reflection gave rise to our report “Focusing our Gaze”, where we offer the lessons learned from the European study and SJM’s vision of the reception system in Spain: where it should be heading and our vision of how it is responding to people in need of protection. Finally, we will present our proposal for a community model, through sponsorship and the network of hospitality communities.

Download the full report here

SJM Valencia Migrant Women, Rozalén and “Aves Enjauladas”

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the release of the song “Aves Enjauladas”, singer-songwriter and activist Rozalén and Beatriz Romero, her sign language interpreter, travelled to Valencia to visit the families and groups of migrant women at risk of social exclusion of the Jesuit Migrant Service-Valencia, supported by Entreculturas.

In April 2020, in the midst of confinement, Rozalén gave us hope in the form of a song. Her solidarity song “Aves enjauladas” (Caged birds) has been, throughout this year, a symbol of solidarity and optimism that highlights the lessons learned in the time of Covid “to return with more strength”.

“I really wanted to come and meet you. When the song came out, many people were having a really bad time and I thought it wasn’t fair for me to keep it, so I spoke to Entreculturas and told them that I would like to connect it with what is happening close to us, also here in Spain. That’s when they told me about this Jesuit Migrant Service project. Thank you to all of you who make this possible, it has been very exciting and I never stop learning from the struggle of so many incredible women like you”, explained Rozalén during her meeting with the women.

One of the most moving moments of the meeting took place when the women performed a short play based on their own life stories: Mujeres Migradas (Migrated Women). A script written by the women themselves that reflects the struggle and strength of so many migrant women (you can download the full script here).

The funds raised from the more than 5 million plays of the song have gone to support the Jesuit Migrant Service’s network of shelters for families, women and children in vulnerable situations, specifically the network of four shelters located in Valencia that form part of the Hospitality project. “Aves Enjauladas serves and has served as a symbol, and the families have understood this. This song was reflected in help and joy for many families,” shared Angélica Zuluaga, a psychologist at SJM Valencia.

Mustafa Mohamed, Director of SJM Valencia, said that “Aves enjauladas has been a breath of fresh air for the organisation. We are committed to the integration of migrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in society, and we work along several lines, such as programmes aimed at supporting migrant women, who are a particularly vulnerable group. Many have been left practically homeless or have very little support from the administration, which is why it has been a particularly hard year”.

Currently, SJM Valencia’s shelters have a total of 12 families, 13 of whom are women and 15 children and adolescents, mainly migrants, whose socio-economic status has been severely affected by the pandemic. “One of the things I feel most identified with in the song, perhaps because of the process I came from, is when she says: “I darned my little cloths” of courage, of valuing… It wasn’t easy for me, I never thought I would have to migrate, to see myself forced to do it. This group has really helped me to darn my little cloth”, says Tanya Picón, from the group “Mujeres Reconstruyendo Historias”. Through music, families and women like Tanya have access to food, help with their children’s education, medicines and clothes. For these families, the shelter flats have become their most faithful home and support in these times of great uncertainty.

With the funds raised, the accompaniment of the families has been reinforced so that they can continue with their process in the midst of this uncertain context caused by the pandemic. Spaces of mutual support have been created for women where they can share experiences, claim their rights and make visible the reality they live as migrant women in search of a better future. In addition, it is hoped that with the new normality, the integrative ecology garden project, an initiative that cares for, accompanies and integrates women both with themselves and with their environment, will be taken up again.

“Caged Birds” is already a hymn of hope that speaks of what we live. It metaphorically describes the respect and awareness of everyone to do great things with very small details and has generated a great network of solidarity. As Rozalén sang in the flats, “it’s time that what belongs to others and what belongs to oneself matter equally” and when all this is over, let us always remember the lessons learned during the confinement to collectively build a better world.

We publish the LUMEN IV Report ‘Expulsion as a weapon against illegal residence’

Continuing with the series of LUMEN studies, which aim to provide information on current migration issues, the fourth report ‘Expulsion as a weapon against illegal immigration‘ has been published. This fourth issue highlights an important part of the reality of migration: illegal residence.

People who enter and reside in a country irregularly face increasing vulnerability, even more so now with the global pandemic. It is estimated that in Spain there are 500,000 people living in this situation.

In this release we will address what the Spanish Immigration Law establishes regarding irregular status in terms of fines and infringement or expulsion, with emphasis on the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in 2015 and 2020 in order to finally raise some reflections: should irregular residence be considered a serious infringement? Should it be punished with expulsion? And even with a fine? Finally, with the help of the answers to these questions, we will establish a clear position on this situation.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL DOCUMENT HERE

Arrupe Hospitality Community: welcome and solidarity

The #Seguimos campaign promoted by the Society of Jesus has supported several hospitality projects of the Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM), including the Arrupe Community of Hospitality. This community is the result of Migra Studium joining forces with the Society of Jesus and the Casal Loiola to respond to the pandemic emergency and strengthen the Hospitality Families Network in Catalonia.

During the first phase of the pandemic, the project responded to the urgent housing needs of many migrants. In a world of closed doors, where hundreds of people lose their lives on their migratory journey, the Arrupe Community welcomes and offers a roof and a home to asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.

The incorporations to this community have been done progressively and so far the project has made possible the reception of 16 people, with an average of 5 people welcomed simultaneously to ensure a good accompaniment and a family atmosphere. All of them are very active people, and having a home makes it possible for them to continue studying and looking for work.

From the beginning, the volunteers have been at the heart of the project, offering Spanish and Catalan classes, computer classes, leisure activities, help in the vegetable garden, and above all their presence at midday and in the evenings. In the same way, the collaboration of many families who buy food and other basic products on a weekly basis has been fundamental.

Testimony of Anna-bel, involved in the Arrupe Community

“Today the joy has been enormous! Karim came to visit us at the Casal Arrupe. When we saw him, respecting the distances marked by the pandemic, we all greeted him warmly and told him how happy we were that he had come back to visit us. Her heartfelt response was clear and sincere, moving for all of us: “It’s my home!

Who wouldn’t call home that space where he has lived for a while and helped to dress and fill with life, where he has cooked, cleaned, lived with other people, felt welcomed and cared for? It’s my home! As it is now his home, the home of the foster family where he has been lucky enough to go to be able to move on. My home… the importance of feeling expected, accompanied, safe and protected; the need to feel loved because you are loved, simply because you are a person and a person has absolute value; and only another person can help you to heal your wounds and overcome your fears and sadness by listening, loving and tenderness”.

Testimony of Kamal, 20 years old, Morocco

“When I was 17 years old, I decided to cross by boat to Spain in search of a better future in a country where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak their language. When I arrived in Barcelona everything was very difficult, first I spent a month and a half on the street sleeping in a park. There I met a man who took me to a police station so that I could enter a centre for minors. As I was only 5 days away from turning 18, I was no longer a minor for the police. They told me that I had to go back to the street, I was blocked.

After some more time on the street, I spent 5 months in shelters. The Hospitality Network project was explained to me. My best stage in Spain began. I spent a year and a half with three different families. It has been a brutal experience, I have learnt a lot of things. I have been able to start studying an intermediate degree, the teachers are very happy with me and I am very happy with them”.

Community Sponsorship as a form of Hospitality

Moving towards a culture of welcome and encounter, as Pope Francis urges us on so many occasions, is essential in order to “seek points of contact, to build bridges, to plan something that includes everyone […]. And the subject of this culture is the people” (Fratelli Tutti, 216).

Community Sponsorship as a model of reception puts the spotlight on civil society and its social institutions, as key actors in accompanying refugees arriving in our country.

Andriuska Surga is one of the professionals from the Padre Lasa Centre – part of the network of Jesuit Migrant Service entities in Spain – who has accompanied the reception process of two Syrian families who arrived in Tudela (Navarra) on 6 April under this Community Sponsorship model. She tells us what the experience has been like and how it is going.

What is Community Sponsorship?

Community sponsorship is a model in which the community itself is the one that welcomes and integrally accompanies the newly-arrived families. It is nothing more than opening your arms and heart to people and guiding them, advising them, caring for them and respecting them as equals; being the support network for people who are unfamiliar with the environment.

It is about people themselves becoming aware of the problems, recognising the need for change, and searching together for solutions, with a dynamic attitude that leads to collaborative initiatives.

Why would you want to get involved in a Community Sponsorship programme at the Padre Lasa Centre?

Since its origins, the Padre Lasa Centre aims to accompany, serve and defend migrants and people at risk of exclusion, through psychosocial interventions respecting the processes of each person and focusing on the community and the involvement of the person themselves in the process.

The experiences of community sponsorship are an example of responsibility and collective and shared effort. We had no doubt that Tudela, given the warmth of the people who make up the town, the diversity that characterises it and the variety of resources, was an ideal place to carry out this pioneering project in Spain.

What was the process like? The previous preparation, training of the teams and volunteers involved in the reception, organisation of civil society, accommodation of housing, other details?

If we had to sum up the pre-arrival phase in three words, we would say excitement, affection and gratitude (with all the work that this entails).

We have enjoyed and learned a lot during the process and we feel very fortunate for the network that moves this project. Public and private entities, international, state, regional, local, from the SJM network, family businesses, shops, individuals… In short… A large family that moves around this project “SOMOS”.

How was the reception by the families?

Undoubtedly the most emotional moment of this process, to date, has been the landing of the flight from Istanbul (on 6 April). We knew that the months of preparation, the work done and the affection of all the people who are part of this project “SOMOS”, was a guarantee. But in our minds there were only feelings of admiration for these brave families who entrusted their lives to something unknown, in search of a better future; and at the same time of nerves to be able to transmit our warmest welcome and to guarantee them that they are not alone in this new journey.

The presentation of the local sponsoring groups (this is how the groups of volunteers are called) was indescribable. The looks spoke for themselves: you could read WELCOME HOME on the one hand and THANK YOU on the other. We could go on for much longer and we have only been here for 4 days…

A look at the challenges ahead

We have many challenges ahead of us (managing expectations, paperwork, bureaucracy, language learning, schooling…) but the biggest of them, without a doubt, is not to fail you.

We will continue to work in a coordinated way with all the parties involved with love.