Why do Ukrainian refugees find it difficult to live in Spain?

by Lorraine Williamson
Ukrainian refugees Spain

Two months after the beginning of the invasion, around 70,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Spain, mainly in Madrid, Barcelona, and Alicante. In the meantime, however, it appears that the solidarity of the Spanish with the refugees is not infinite. 

After arriving in Spain, the Ukrainian refugees are received in hotels and centres, with the support of the Ministry of Inclusion. Until they find a job, they are completely dependent on Spanish institutions. If they find a job, they can try to continue on their own. 

The war is normalised 

From that moment on, they face a new problem, such as finding a house. In Madrid this proves to be impossible,’ a young social worker told the news site 20Minutos. She deals with Ukrainian refugees in the first reception centre of the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR). The boom in solidarity is decreasing, little by little people are normalising the problem’, she explains. 

It is precisely the period when refugees are just arriving in Spain that is the most critical. Solidarity is extremely important at this time. It is precisely then that we try to find apartments because that makes it easier to find work’. 

Little enthusiasm for renting out apartments

There are hardly any private persons willing to rent their apartments to these refugees. This is regardless of whether they are bricklayers, warehouse workers, or refugees with a university education (61% of the refugees have a higher education). The options are minimal, they must be apartments between €600 and €650, which is unthinkable in Madrid due to the high prices of housing. 

However, the risk of non-payment that landlords face thanks to benefits is nil: ‘The refugees receive 18 months’ help to pay the rent, in some cases even 24 months. But social benefits are not considered ordinary income. Even if landlords receive a certificate that they will pay for 18 months, they still do not want to rent out their apartments. Moreover, there are often unlawful clauses. 

In the case of women with children, it is different, because they are not able to work because they are responsible for one or more children. The women come to live in a shelter or with a foster family. They are supported for six months and can learn the language or take training courses, and have free childcare.  

Also read: What to do if you want to receive Ukrainian refugees in your home

The role of NGOs 

Allocating housing to Ukrainian refugees is also done by some NGOs, such as Emergency Home, which uses a form on its website to put those asking for housing in touch with those offering it, this time for free. The supply is falling, but not the demand.  

The profile of the Ukrainian refugees in Spain 

Most families arriving in Spain from Ukraine, mainly from Kyiv, are women – 67% – with one or more children, 37% are minors. Men between 18 and 60 are obliged to stay and fight. Those who reach Spain are mostly parents from large families, widowers, or people over 65. Of the six in ten refugees who have higher education, most are teachers, economists, or engineers. 

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