The Government has been working “for days” on the contingency plan to meet the needs of refugees that they may arrive in Spain fleeing from the Russian invasion in Ukraine, a plan that is prepared in close coordination with the autonomous communities, local entities and the “diaspora” of nearly 120,000 Ukrainians who already reside in Spain.
“One of the great virtues of our reception system is its elasticity and ability to accommodate itself to circumstances unforeseen at all times”, the Secretary of State for Migration, Jesús Perea Cortijo, told the press in Brussels upon his arrival at the EU Interior meeting where the possibility of activating a temporary protection is examined to the displaced that gives them freedom of movement within the EU and a residence and work permit, among other rights.
Regarding Spain’s reception capacity in this crisis, for which more than 650,000 Ukrainians have already reached the border with the EU After a week of war, Perea highlighted the work underway to “assess the needs” of these people through a coordinated contingency plan between the ministries involved, but also with autonomous communities, local entities, the diplomatic representation of Ukraine and, as a “fundamental element”, with the “diaspora” of Ukrainians already installed in Spain.
Among 115,000 and 120,000 Ukrainians reside in Spain, many of them arrived after the Crimean war in 2014, according to government data, which considers this community “active and with powerful links” in the municipalities where it is concentrated, which will facilitate the reception of displaced persons who may reach the country.
The Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Pérez Ruiz, who together with Perea attends the meeting of EU Interior Ministers to discuss the temporary protection of war refugees, He indicated upon his arrival that Spain supports this initiative, the details of which were presented by the European Commission the day before.
Spain believes that the Ukrainian community in the country can serve as “basis to give support” to the compatriots that arrive in the country displaced by the Russian invasion and therefore “this is not the time” to define reception quotas by Member States, although it is open to it “if necessary” later.
The EU designed the directive on temporary protection after the experience of the Balkan wars and the difficulties in receiving the thousands of refugees who have fled the region, due to the need to have a mechanism that would speed up the procedures for the entry of non-community nationals in a case of crisis, giving them a legal cover that would facilitate its integration.
However, this instrument has never been activated, neither when the war in Syria caused the massive arrival of asylum seekers in Italy and Greece.
Now, Brussels asks to activate the protection for at least one year, with the possibility of extending it up to a maximum of three years if the war continues, and that benefits all residents of Ukraine, whether nationals or migrants with a long-term residence permit or refugee status.
The rule, however, would not apply to migrants who were temporarily in Ukraine when Russia began the invasion, for example students or migrants without regulated status, although they must be able to reach the EU to facilitate a “safe return” from there to their countries of origin.
In order for the norm to go ahead, it is necessary that a qualified majority of support among the Twenty-seven, which have already shown broad support in principle despite the doubts of some delegations that it is the most appropriate mechanism in this case.
In this sense, Pérez Ruiz has highlighted that it is offer a “common solidarity response to an exceptional situation” and therefore Spain will “of course” support its activation. The rule, explained the Secretary of State, will ensure the displaced “all the rights recognized by Spanish law”, including those of a labor, assistance, medical nature and with guarantees of guardianship and education for unaccompanied minors.
All in all, this Thursday’s debate is the first at ministerial level on the details of the Brussels proposal, so a formal adoption is not expected that allows its immediate start-up, but a political agreement that gives way to the technical development of the same before its final approval.
The Community Executive’s proposal includes the need to a mechanism for “fair sharing” of the burden of reception between Member States for the overload of the asylum systems of a few countries, but the Member States have not yet opened the discussion on possible distribution cables or the conditions of this solidarity.