Barcelona emphasised its wish to host refugees in a massive demonstration this Saturday. More than 160,000 flooded the streets of the Catalan capital and called the Spanish Government to react to this humanitarian crisis and take in more refugees. Indeed, Spain has only welcomed 516 of the over 10,500 refugees established in the scheme of distribution of the European Commission, to be completed in two years. Carrying ‘Refugees Welcome’ and ‘Enough excuses, welcome them now’ banners, demonstrators called on the Catalan institutions to act, leaving aside the inaction from Spain, to start hosting refugees in Catalonia. The movement ‘Our home, your home’, which gathers together more than 200 Catalan associations and NGOs and a hundred cultural companies and citizens, was the main promotor of the mobilisation, the biggest at a European level since the outbreak of the refugee crisis.
Protestors marched through Barcelona’s city centre to the Mediterranean coast – an end-point seen as highly symbolic given the fact that about 5,000 refugees are estimated to have perished in the sea in 2016.
Barcelona’s Mayor, Ada Colau, was amongst the demonstrators, which she described as a “clear message” to the EU. “The current EU policies don’t represent us; we want to welcome refugees”, she stated and recalled that Barcelona has already started a hosting scheme through the ‘Nausica’ programme but assured that “it is not enough”. “EU policies should change to prevent people from dying on the sea and on our borders”, she added.
Colau called Barcelona to be “a city capital of hope, humanity and ethics” in response to the populist, racist and xenophobic behaviour which is emerging in Europe.
The ‘Our home, your home’ platform
The movement ‘Our home, your home’, resulting from a group of volunteers who met in refugee camps at the border between Macedonia and Greece, aims at raising awareness, mobilising citizens and asking the institutions to give a clearer and more forceful response to the refugee problem. The main goal is to ensure that Catalan institutions act, leaving aside the inaction from Spain, to start hosting refugees in Catalonia.
Last week, 50 artists of different origins and backgrounds took part in a concert organised by the platform and aimed at making the public aware of the humanitarian crisis which has left, according to the UN, more than 200 million people worldwide escaping from war and poverty. The event, staged at Barcelona’s Palau Sant Jordi and attended by more than 15,000 people.
Spain only hosts 5% of the agreed refugee quota
The campaign ‘Our home, your home’ recalls that the Spanish Government has welcomed only 516 of the over 10,500 refugees established in the scheme of distribution of the European Commission, to be completed in two years. Organisations urge the Catalan Government to implement its commitment to host 4,500 people and call for action to improve the situation of immigrants in Catalonia and end the “institutional racism”. 2016 will go down in history as one of the most death-filled years in the Mediterranean: at least 4,700 people, according to the official record, passed away trying to reach safety in Europe.
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