Ferran Tarradellas: “The EU’s priority for refugees is to avoid deaths to the greatest extent possible and to treat them with dignity”.

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The representative of the European Union in Barcelona, Ferran Tarradellas, participated along with other experts and a student who arrived in Spain on a precarious dinghy in a talk on “the refugee crisis in Europe”, organised by the Charlemagne Institute for European Studies ta UIC Barcelona.

During the event, held on 30 September at UIC Barcelona, various experts provided a holistic overview of the current situation and plans for the future for refugees and the migration crisis in Europe.

Ferran Tarradellas, European Union representative in Barcelona, was one of the experts participating in the event. Tarradellas talked about the different EU responses to the large number of refugees that have arrived in recent years. On the one hand, 5 billion euros has been spent in humanitarian aid up until now, and 3 billion more has been earmarked for the future. This aid was especially for Syria and for countries from which large numbers of refugees have been arriving: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Another response which the EU has been ruminating on is the creation of a mechanism for the redistribution of refugees. Work has also been carried out towards the creation of routes that will allow refugees to get here legally and safely without having to go through the mafia to get to the EU.  In short, as Tarradellas himself said “The EU’s priority has been to avoid deaths to the greatest extent possible and to treat refugees with dignity”.

The event began with a first-person account from Ousman Umar, a university student who arrived on a dingy ten years ago from Ghana in search of a better future. Umar shared his story as an example of the stories thousands of people around the world experience daily. He said “the majority of people who start a journey towards Europe don’t end up getting there. They end up at the bottom of the sea or left behind in the desert”. He also said that “a lack of information is currently like a cancer in Africa”, and for that reason he has set up an NGO called Nasco IT which sends second-hand computers to Ghana and offers IT classes in Ghana for young Ghanaian people.

On the other hand, Andreu Olesti, Full Professor at the University of Barcelona, talked about the problem which this massive flow of migrants is creating in EU countries. On the one hand, each country has responded in a different way and some member-states have been more open to receiving people than others. In turn, the countries that have shown “more solidarity” are receiving more internal pressure from their own population which in the end had led them to reinforce their borders, precisely to avoid the mass arrival of refugees. Olesti also criticised the fact that, on the other hand “The states that are not showing solidarity, or are reticent in terms of welcoming refugees or providing resources, do not appear to be sanctioned in any way”.

Montserrat Nebrera, a professor from the Faculty of Law at UIC Barcelona, also took part in the discussion. Nebrera talked about Spain’s response to this situation. According to Nebrera, the issue of the complete lack of a response from the Spanish state is due to the system that currently exists in the Centres for the Detention of Foreigners (CIE) where people can apply for asylum. It is not only foreigners in search of a better life who end up in CIE centres, but also people who have committed crimes in our country and who when they leave jail apply for asylum once more. The system has been brought to a standstill because it has had to respond to all these various petitions. The solution would involve detailing the law on asylum to a far greater extent. Therefore, Nebrera said that “The lack of a Spanish response is caused by a series of circumstances. Some of these are due to a lack of political intentions. The rule of law is not ready for it”.

Xavier Baró described the situation in the Balkans, one of the areas which the majority of refugees aim for. In his opinion, this particular area has three problems: “The Balkans are too far from Western Europe and vice versa. Secondly there is a lot of disorder and chaos in these post-communist economies, and thirdly the Balkans are seen as the frontier to Europe, when in fact they form part of it”.

Carmen Mendoza, assistant director of the School of Architecture also took part in the debate. She is currently working on research projects that look at ways to provide a better urbanistic and architectural solution for refugee camps. In her opinion, an improvement to the refugees’ quality of life would involve fully including them in society, and placing them in social housing inside the cities themselves, for example, in order to avoid the “ghettos” that can develop in these camps. “The camps are overcrowded places where people cannot develop as individuals” she said.