Spain still receives some 1,000 Ukrainian refugees a week

by Lorraine Williamson

Spain is still receiving refugees as a result of the war in Ukraine. There are around 1,000 every week, according to Spain’s Minister of Integration, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá. He said this on Wednesday at a press conference in which he took stock of the country’s management of the reception of Ukrainian refugees. 

According to Escrivá, Spain has been “particularly helpful” in this matter because, as he noted, it is the fifth EU country to have taken in the most refugees, looking at the country’s population and size. He pointed out that Spain has taken in 168,000 Ukrainians over the past year, of whom 82,000 have registered with municipalities and about 78,000 have their health cards. In addition, 18,000 Ukrainians were included in the reception system, 14,000 joined the social security system and 36,000 children were enrolled in school in Spain. 

Mainly women and children 

Children make up 31% of the refugee community registered in Spain last year and women 76%. The average age of the 168,000 refugees who arrived is 31. 30% of them have settled in the Levante region, especially in Valencia and Alicante. Catalonia has 25% and Madrid 15%. Of these nearly 170,000 refugees, most arrived in the first two months after the start of the war. In March and April, Spanish reception centres registered up to 8,000 arrivals per week, according to Escrivá.

In May, June and July, this number dropped by half, at around 4,000 people per week, and after the summer and now it is about 1,000, according to the minister. At centres like CREADE in Pozuelo (Madrid), where the press conference took place, they had up to 600 appointments a week at the beginning of this humanitarian crisis to provide international protection to refugees. Now there are about 20 per week. 

Rise during winter 

Escrivá pointed out that this trend continued despite the fact that an increase in arrivals had been predicted for the winter season, starting in November. These expectations were due to “the severity of the winter” in Ukraine and the fact that the country “continues to be punished” by Russia’s military actions, Escrivá said. But, as he also noted, ‘now that winter is well under way’, the number of arrivals has not increased compared to previous months. 

In this reception process, availability was always arranged for those with “special vulnerability”, so 66 Ukrainian children and 15 adults who had to undergo medical treatment, often against cancer, were accommodated. 461 children from orphanages were taken care of, 93 of them with disabilities, as well as about 100 people injured in combat.  

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14,000 refugees have been registered with social security, some of whom still have a job in Ukraine and can work remotely. A survey of Ukrainians in Spain found that 56% feel that the biggest barrier to finding work in the country is the feeling of being temporary. In other words, they want to return to their country as soon as possible and see this situation as temporary. In addition, 55% also see language as a constraint. According to Escrivá, almost none of the received refugees speak Spanish. 

Compliment to coordinators 

In his speech, the minister praised the coordination work, both within the government itself and between regional and local authorities and with civil society and private companies. According to him, this dramatic situation has shown how important it is to insist on capacity. ‘Accommodating 168,000 people in a country with the population of Spain in such a short time is only possible with the horizontal action of society in all areas,’ he stressed. In addition, Spain must strengthen its state reception system and continue to make progress in the number of reception centres. In different parts of the country, new centres are coming up or tenders are being launched to strengthen the state network of centres’ with the help of European funds. 

Inertia in some regions 

Asked about complaints by concerned NGOs that some autonomous regions are not providing the direct assistance approved for Ukrainian families, Escrivá asked for patience. While acknowledging that if this management had been carried out at the state level, the pace of aid delivery would have been “higher”, he pointed out that the autonomous regions have asked to be given this task and have promised to do so. 

According to him, delays do not occur in all autonomous regions and the situation is related to the fact that there are different routes. The ministry points out that there are regions that have already introduced support along these lines and others that need to develop a new model, which takes more time. The amount of refugees each autonomous region has to deal with also varies, according to the ministry. 

Also read: Spain banned from re-exporting weapons to Ukraine


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