SPAIN: The Salesian Martí-Codolar residence provides emergency shelter for newly arriving refugees in Barcelona
(MissionNewswire) In response to the migration and refugee crisis that has hit the European Union over the last several years, Salesian missionaries are creating new spaces and providing services to welcome refugees. The new spaces provide a place for refugees to live while new services have been created specifically to help refugees integrate into their new communities.
According to UNCHR (UN Refugee Agency), more than 1 million refugees live in the European Union today. In 2017, Barcelona, Spain welcomed 4,405 refugees, according to data from the Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees Service of the Barcelona Municipal Council. Many of them have lived or still live in spaces granted by the Catholic Church.
The Salesian Martí-Codolar residence, a program within the broader Salesian Martí-Codolar Center in Barcelona, serves as a place of first arrival for refugees and migrants. Two years ago, the local Salesian congregation appointed two floors of the Martí-Codolar residence and dedicated them specifically to welcoming refugees who arrived in the city.
In addition to ceding the space, the Salesian congregation made some necessary improvements including the installation of laundry facilities. Salesians missionaries, together with volunteers, spent time making the facility accessible and appropriate to meet the needs of new arrivals.
Most of the people who arrive at the Martí-Codolar residence are families with children. However, there are also young people who arrive alone. There is much turn over at the residence as its primary purpose is to act as an emergency shelter for those refugees who have most recently arrived and who have not yet been integrated into other programs.
“The work done by Salesian volunteers to help these refugees are done without any act of heroism, but are simply part of being Salesians,” says Father Joan Codina, superior of the Martí-Codolar Center. “As Salesians, we are called to work with young people and children. We could not refuse; on the contrary, we consider it absolutely necessary.”
The Martí-Codolar Center is one of nine Salesian centers organized under the Salesians of Sant Jordi. In 2017 at their nine centers in the Catalonia region, the Salesians of Sant Jordi carried out 54 projects to improve the quality of life for children in the region. These projects included social and work placement for youth, welcome and reception to migrants, residential assistance, family orientation and community development. In total, 4,072 children and older youth who were at risk of social exclusion were helped by these projects.
Hard hit by the current economic troubles in Europe, Spain, although slowly improving economically, has the third highest rate of income inequality of the countries of the European Union. The richest 1 percent of the Spanish population accounts for a quarter of the national wealth, according to the World Bank. It also notes that 10.2 million people in Spain live below the poverty line, equivalent to a poverty rate of 22.3 percent.
Close to 37 percent of young Spanish workers under the age of 25 are unemployed and a growing number of them can’t afford to buy enough food to live. Poor youth with few employable skills struggle the most to find and retain stable employment. Women in Spain are also challenged in the workforce. They earn up to 14 percent less than men and represent only 34.5 percent of those listed as the highest earners in Spain.
Salesian missionaries have been working for many years to provide educational and workforce development opportunities for poor youth and women in Spain through residential and technical and vocational training programs.
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World Bank – Spain