Resettlement in Spain: Lessons Learned, Current Challenges & Future Needs, 23 January 2014

On 23 January 2014, Spain’s National Network Focal Point, the Ministry of Employment and Social Security (MEYSS) as represented by Elena Alonso, hosted a joint European Resettlement Network and SHARE Network seminar in Madrid, Spain entitled: Resettlement in Spain: Lessons Learned, Current Challenges & Future Needs. The event brought together 26 stakeholders from the MEYSS, IOM, UNHCR, municipalities and NGOs.

The event briefly introduced the project ‘Strengthening the response to emergency resettlement needs’, including a general presentation on resettlement as a durable solution. The meeting then focused on the 2011 Shousha caseload and the preliminary findings of the ‘participatory diagnosis’ that was conducted by UNHCR in Spain, together with the support of a multidisciplinary team including MEYSS, Refugee Reception Centres (CARs) and NGOs.

As part of the ‘participatory diagnosis’ approach, interviews with resettled refugees were conducted in the cities of Madrid, Torrelavega and Valencia between July and September 2013. Interviews aimed to gather information regarding the support received by resettled refugees after their arrival in Spain and their integration experiences to date. Although not an evaluation as such, the participatory diagnosis gathers together refugee feedback and draws conclusions on lessons learned for the reception and integration of resettled refugees in Spain.

Positive aspects highlighted by the process include protection, meeting basic needs, and integration measures for children. Refugees’ expectations of life in Spain were identified as one of the main challenges, with some refugees explaining their disappointment after arrival: “We were never told that the [economic] crisis would affect us.” Language learning was also identified as a key challenge, as were difficulties in finding childcare that would enable parents to attend language classes. The main concern expressed by refugees related to employment and the access to an independent life that this would facilitate. Assistance provided during the two-year integration programme will come to an end in July 2014 and, to date, none of the refugees resettled in 2012 have found employment.

Following the discussion of the ‘participatory diagnosis,’ Elena Alonso  provided an update on the 2012 and 2013 resettlement caseloads. A maximum of 100 Syrian refugees will be resettled from the 2014 caseload, while 30 will be resettled from the 2013 caseload. Interviews will be conducted in refugee camps, although a date for the selection mission has not yet been set. The possibility of receiving resettled refugees in groups to be accommodated together in the same area in Spain is still being discussed.

The ERN event was followed by a SHARE Network multi-stakeholder meeting bringing together representatives from regional and city authorities, MEYSS, UNHCR and NGOs to discuss the involvement of regional and local entities at the early stages of the integration process. Possibilities of further collaboration on resettlement, reception and integration with other European regional and local actors in the framework of the SHARE Project were also discussed.

More information about the event, including the programme, full report and presentations will be available soon.

To learn more about resettlement in Spain, click here.