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Slow refugee resettlement leads to court action by 'Stop Mare Mortum' and Barcelona College of Law
A CAMPAIGN to force Spain through legal means to fulfil its promise to take in its agreed quota of 19,000 refugees has been launched by the association Stop Mare Mortum and Barcelona College of Law Defence Commission (ICAB).
During a press conference in the Santa Eulàlia pilot boat off Barcelona pier, spokeswoman for Stop Mare Mortum Sonia Ros says Spain is 'committing a clear breach' of its pledge to the European Commission to take in 19,449 war victims in refugee camps in Greece and Italy by September this year.
Sra Ros says only 886 refugees from Greece and Italy – or 4.57% of the total agreed – have been resettled in Spain, although the full total is just over 1,000 because of conflict victims taken in from camps in Turkey and Lebanon.
In fact, another 56 Syrians arrived in Spain from a refugee camp in Turkey yesterday (Thursday).
But Spain is not the only one failing in its duty to families fleeing for their lives – Ros says the average European member State has only resettled 17% of its promised total.
One of ICAB's legal team members, Isabel Baixeras, says a formal request was sent to Spain's government a week ago today on Friday, April 21 and that, depending upon the reply – if this is forthcoming – Stop Mare Mortum and the ICAB may go down the route of court action.
These proceedings would go straight to the Supreme Court due to the special legal status accorded to government officials and bodies.
Although courts in Spain move very slowly, campaigners have opted for this route because judges are able to issue provisional verdicts pending full investigation, and ICAB will request the Supreme Court does this.
“European directives and regulations are compulsory laws in the Spanish State, and Spain is obliged to comply with them,” says Sra Baixeras.
Sonia Ros recalls the extreme situation faced by those fleeing the Syrian civil war and who now live in refugee camps in Greece and Italy, some of whom have been there for years.
Basic services such as healthcare and education are virtually non-existent, and even food can be difficult to come by – not to mention the exceptional discomfort of entire families living in small tents in intense summer heat and freezing winter temperatures.
She urges residents in all other member States in the EU to put legal pressure on their governments to help.
Another member of the ICAB legal team, Alexandre Peñalver, has called for Spain to 'significantly increase' its number of slots for refugees brought in every month, and to follow through with it.
“We're not talking about shifting merchandise; we're talking about attending to the basic needs of people who are really, truly suffering, and governments' attitudes towards these people are tantamount to showing contempt for basic human rights and human lives,” Peñalver says.
But ICAB and Stop Mare Mortum also highlighted the positive side of Spain vis à vis refugees: society in general has reacted 'very well' and shown its full support for the country's taking in war victims.
In fact, Spain as a whole has shown the most positive pro-refugee attitude in all of Europe: whilst many member States, especially those with a growing support of the far-right or run by ultra-conservative governments, actively resist what they call an 'invasion' of refugees 'who might be terrorists', the Spanish public is passionately campaigning for more refugees to be given shelter in the country.
And mainstream society in Spain overwhelmingly supported a demonstration on March 19 in Barcelona for greater refugee help, as well as being enthusiastic about Stop Mare Mortum's and ICAB's court crusade.
Defence Commissioner at ICAB, Rafa Calderón, stressed that although the campaigners' actions are likely to go through judicial channels, their aim is not necessarily to gain a judge's verdict, but rather to force the government's hand or at least, push politicians into a firm commitment and favourable response ahead of any legal case being tried.
The photograph, issued by the ministry for the interior, shows a group of 66 refugees from Syria and Iraq – mostly children, teenagers and young adults – arriving in Spain to be given a new home away from the horrors of war.
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