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.


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.

Pandemic restricts fundamental rights in the Immigration Detention Centres

Yesterday afternoon a round table discussion was organised by the Jesuit Migrant Service on the report “COVID-19 and immigration detention: Lessons (not) learned” by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

The round table was attended by Iván Lendrino Tejerina (SJM CIE [Immigration Detention Centres] programme coordinator), Josep Buades Fuster SJ (SJM Southern Border programme coordinator and director of the Claver-SJM Association), Arcadio Diaz Tejera (Magistrate and Stay Control Judge of the CIE of Las Palmas), Elena Arce Jiménez (Head Technician of the Migration and Equal Treatment Area in the Ombudsman’s Office) and Paloma Favieres Ruiz (Coordinator of the legal services of CEAR).

As Arcadio Díaz Tejera pointed out, “The pandemic has generated a restrictive drift in terms of fundamental rights”. In a year in which social and health issues have been and continue to be of particular concern and strategic importance, the structural deficiencies in this area of CIEs have called into question their need to exist. “It is necessary to prevent people from entering the CIE: the guarantees in the centre are minimal” assured Paloma Favieres, to which Elena Arce added: “with the confinement and the State of Alarm, the function of the CIEs began to make no sense”.

Among the issues that these speakers brought to the table were: the deficient role of legal and social care within the CIEs and, especially, a worsening of social and health conditions. Díaz Tejera gave an example of the former with this testimony: “On 25 September, 42 young people entered the CIE (29 Mali, 9 from Senegal, 2 from Gambia and 1 from Mauritania). When I asked all of them where they came from and if they knew about international protection, they all said no. Migrants should know their rights to international protection. Migrants should know their rights to protection, not only by asking, but also by being offered it. The children themselves do not see themselves as subjects of rights, they only ask for something to eat”.

In this area, Paloma Favieres insisted that “improving legal aid and translation in legal assistance are two fundamental aspects, in addition to the desire, the love of the profession and believing in what you do.

Socio-health aspects

At yesterday’s event, it became clear that the social and health care currently provided in CIEs is very deficient. For Elena Arce: “The news of this year of pandemic regarding the CIEs is far from being that for months there have been no people detained, the news is Samba Martine. A civil society that 11 years later has managed to ensure that the mother and daughter of this person who died in the detention centre in Madrid are compensated and that there is a resolution to assume patrimonial responsibility on the part of the administration. In the midst of a pandemic, the time is even more propitious to reflect on this. It is important to see and analyse this resolution to see what kind of health care is provided in the CIEs”.

The COVID-19 has shown that the only alternative for people coming from the emptied CIEs has been the Humanitarian Aid programmes,” said Paloma Favieres, “differentiating between emergency places and stable places, and not being able to convert emergency places into structural ones”. 

Thus, it became evident that during the months of emptying “nobody missed the CIEs”, according to Iván Lendrino, coordinator of the SJM CIE Programme, with the Hospitality of civil society being the most proportionate and appropriate reaction to forced migration.

See the report at this link.

Report: Population of immigrant origin in Spain 2020

For yet another year we publish the annual report ‘Population of immigrant origin in Spain, 2020’. A demographic analysis, in the light of official data, of the foreign and foreign-born population in Spain and its evolution over the last decade. The report also looks at the most relevant foreign population groups.

At the beginning of 2020, the foreign-born population accounted for almost 15% of the total population, nearly 7 million people (of which 28% are citizens of an EU state), while the resident foreign population was 11%. Compared to 2019, the largest positive change in figures was among the foreign-born resident population (+457,864). The migratory balance stood at 454,232, a magnitude higher than that of the total population.

Among the main immigrant population groups according to their country of birth, Morocco (+800,000), Romania (almost 580,000) and Colombia (almost 500,000) are the three main foreign nationalities. They are followed by Ecuador, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, Argentina and Peru.

The report concludes that the trend of migratory movements initiated in 2016 is accentuated, with the growth of the Venezuelan population standing out above all, followed by Colombia, Morocco and Honduras. The public ideology that in 2018 related foreign entries with irregular entries, from 2019 onwards the diversity of origins is understood: more Central Americans and Caribbeans on the one hand, Moroccans on the other; and Europeans and Chinese, in which the profiles of applicants for international protection stand out. The covid-19 pandemic has had a clear effect on the reduction of migratory arrivals due to the closure of international borders. The unknowns for the future are how long this closure will last and how the economic crisis derived from the pandemic will affect migratory flows.

DOWNLOAD HERE THE REPORT ‘Population of immigrant origin in Spain 2020’.