Valencia proposes boat charters for refugees

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REFUGEE SUPPORTERS: Protestors carry placards to highlight the Syrians’ plight.

AN initiative to bring Syrian refugees directly by boat to Valencia has been proposed by Monica Oltra in Madrid.

The vice president of Generalitat Valenciana and Mayor Joan Ribo called an emergency conference to discuss the proposal, the idea is a measure set out to ease the travel for the refugees ultimately destined for Spain.

“Monica Oltra told me there was no point to Syrian refugees experiencing an ordeal travelling through Hungary and Macedonia to reach Germany or Spain.” Ribo has said in a statement adding that he supported the idea as “very positive.” Oltra is said to have already contacted heads of other regions including Catalonia, Murcia and the Balearic Islands to see if they will also support the proposals.

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The mayor’s intention is to use the Royal Navy Veles e Vents building as a reception centre upon arrival and from there the refugees will be sent to different areas throughout the province.

While waiting for the response of the central government, they have apparently also initiated talks with private owners to explore other alternatives. The council has created an area on their website for people who want to support or donate.

Supporters can fill out a form indicating if they are willing to offer housing, materials and resources such as food or blankets. There is also a call for volunteers to offer support for social problems to deal with language issues like Arabic translators as well as other services including psychologists and lawyers.

The mayor has indicated that this is a first step and has not ruled out talking with banks to see if empty flats and properties owned by them could also be offered. Head of Social Services Consol Castillo said the most important thing is to keep families together.

Spain’s central government has been under pressure recently to increase the quota of refugees that they will accept, both from local left-wing governments, the Catholic Church and EU counterparts. Prime Minister Rajoy has signalled a change in approach after David Cameron’s visit, stating at a press conference that they will take in “all those people who have the right to asylum and who request it.” Insisting that they do not have an official figure yet, although it is believed that Spain will be taking in around 15,000 refugees over the next two years.

There are concerns that due to Spain’s high jobless rate and the fact that the country is still struggling to emerge from one of the worst financial crisis seen in recent decades that the already stretched public services, pushed to the limit after five years of harsh austerity measures, will not be able to cope with the influx making it difficult for new arrivals to integrate.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo stated recently: “Any commitment to take in refugees should be accompanied by the funds to offer them a worthy life, with healthcare and social services.”

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