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Asylum applications in Barcelona up by 45% in a year, mostly from Ukrainians
thinkSPAIN , Sunday, January 31, 2016

ASYLUM seekers have increased in Barcelona alone by 45% in the last year, with 837 migrants seeking refugee status in 2015 compared with just 578 the year before.

The most numerous national group have been from Ukraine, according to MP for Barcelona Emilio Ablanedo and head of the foreign office, Elena Nieto.

After Ukrainians, who make up over half the total at 486, come Venezuelans – 47 overall – plus citizens from Hondurás and El Salvador, with 35 each; Chinese nationals, and Syrians, with a total of 30 apiece.

Although Ablanedo says Syrian refugees have not arrived en masse in Spain the way they have in other European countries, the increase over 2015 has been 'significant'.

And whilst the city's foreign office is required to carry out the first interviews with the asylum applicants, they are then referred to the Asylum and Refugee Office of the central government's interior ministry, which will then make the final decision.

So far, Spain's record for granting asylum in the past few years has been very poor – even behind the UK, which is one of the harshest in Europe, declining seven in 10 applicants, many of whom have to be overturned on appeal with the support of the London Refugee Council.

In Catalunya as a whole, a total of just under 1.08 million foreigners are legal residents – 22% of the total for Spain – although the number in the province of Barcelona has dropped by a hefty 6,600 since 2014.

Legal residence granted to non-EU citizens in the province has increased by 19% in the last 12 months, from 28,166 in 2014 to 33,515 in 2015.

Those with long-term residence rights make up 77.27% of all foreigners from outside the EU living in the province of Barcelona.

Applications for residence have risen by 3.98% in the past 12 months, from 122,835 the year before last to 127,723 in 2015, but requests to bring family members over to Spain, or for residence based upon long-term dwelling in the country, have dropped by 5% and 10% respectively.

But residence renewals have plummeted sharply in the last year, by nearly 40% - from 20,492 in the year 2014 to just 12,336 in 2015.

According to Ablanedo, the legal deadline for resolving residence cases is three months, but Barcelona has managed to get this down to 23 days.

Sanctions for residing in Spain illegally have dropped dramatically in the province of Barcelona, and in 48% of cases, the accused gets off with a fine and is not deported.

Attempted 'green card' weddings are also becoming few and far between – the year 2014 saw a total of 120 'couples' caught, compared with just 22 last year.

Fraudulent attempts at obtaining residence have led to the right to live in Spain being withdrawn in 854 cases in the last year – nearly double the total of 493 dealt with in 2014.

These were mostly through fictitious companies offering fake job contracts for a fee to enable foreign nationals to apply for visas.

Another 936 residence cards were confiscated last year because of the holders outstaying their visas, with another 157 having their residence rights ceased because of being convicted of a crime carrying a custodial sentence of more than a year.



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