Spain tests new refugee reception plan

African refugee, Canary Islands. [Noborder Network/Flickr]

Spain has launched a test programme for the reception of immigrants, focused on a group of 50 refugees mainly from Eritrea, government sources announced Monday (26 October). EURACTIV Spain reports.

In the context of its commitments with the European Commission, Spain is working closely with Italy, experts from FRONTEX, police and immigration officers to find the best way to accommodate them. However, so far, Italian authorities have identified just 37 of them.

According to the lastest Commission plan to accommodate some 120,000 migrants, Spain should receive 17,680.

Although there no concrete date has been set yet, government sources in Madrid expect that the first group could be transferred to Spain almost immediately upon their arrival in Lampedusa, Italy.

Spain wants to focus on specific profiles

In a first screening exercise (to select possible candidates for asylum), Spanish authorities will work on the basis of specific profiles, taking into consideration whether immigrants are willing to stay and live in Spain, or just want to temporarily settle in the Iberian country, and then continue their journey to northern Europe and stay there.

This testing plan is part of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s commitment to relocate immigrants and refugees from outside Europe. During the EU mini-summit on the refugee crisis, held last Sunday (25 October) in Brussels, Rajoy said Spain preferred to delay a permanent plan to relocate refugees.

Spain has expressed its “doubts” on the new strategy proposed by the European Commission for a common asylum and immigration policy.

>>Read: Spain at odds with Commission over immigration

Madrid wants first to evaluate the effects of the current provisional plan agreed to last July by member states. It is better to “see how things evolve”, as “we didn´t put in place yet the provisional plan agreed in July,” Rajoy said.

The Spanish model: agreements with transit countries

Spain has found a new method to deal with migration, cooperating with transit countries such as Senegal, Morocco and Mauritania. In a recent interview, Spain’s Secretary General for International Development Cooperation, Gonzalo Robles, stressed these agreements helped block Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, just nine miles away from Spain at its closest, as a departure point both for the Canaries and Gibraltar, and by doing so, migration flows from sub-Saharan Africa had been dramatically reduced.

Spain officially considers it “important” to help Turkey, a country that hosts more than 2 million refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq. However, according to Spanish government sources, there is no concrete figure yet on the negotiating table. Madrid has, on the other hand, announced more than €3 million in help for an emergency fiduciary fund for Africa.

Good asylum procedures, but little accommodation

In a recent interview with EURACTIV Spain, UNHCR spokesperson Maria Jesús Vega said Spain has a better asylum system than many other EU member states.

But many things could be improved in the asylum process, and also in the reception and integration of the refugees in Spain. In Madrid, for example, it takes up to four months to formalise an asylum request.

>>Read: Spain urges more cooperation with South to tackle terrorism and immigration

Spanish law states that it should take between three and six months to complete an asylum request, but in practice it takes more than a year, and in some cases up to two years.

Like the rest of Europe, Spain has faced an increase in asylum requests in recent years. In 2012 there were 2,500, in 2013, 4,500, in 2014, 6,000, and in the first six months of 2015 Spain received 6,000.

However, despite this rapidly changing situation, there has been no increase in the budget allocated to meet the challenge.

As a result, Spain has very few facilities for refugees. Capacity is around 1,000, and they can stay only six months. This period can be renewed under special circumstances, and for particularly vulnerable people.

Subscribe to our newsletters