SEATTLE — The ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela has forced over 3 million people to leave the country. Most of these people have fled to neighboring Latin American nations, primarily because they do not have the economic or legal resources to go further or seek asylum elsewhere. For the few who can afford it, Spain, which shares cultural and linguistic ties with Venezuela, has also been a preferred destination. Unfortunately, the welcome has not been as warm as anticipated.
Since 2014, Venezuelan migration to Spain has increased by 58 percent. Although Spain rejects about 70 percent of all asylum-seekers, many Venezuelans still apply because it gives them temporary residency and a work permit during the process. However, during this period they are in constant limbo because they do not know whether the Spanish government will deny or accept their claims.
Some Venezuelan migrants have also experienced unsafe living conditions. For example, Humberto Marino and his family traveled from Caraccas to Spain in April 2018 and during the four days it took the family to find an apartment they had to sleep in the streets. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations working in Spain to accommodate and support the influx of Venezuelan migrants. Here are three NGOs helping Venezuelan migrants in Spain:
3 NGOs Helping Venezuelan Migrants in Spain
ACCEM – Asociación Comisión Católica Española de Migración or ACCEM is an NGO founded in 1991. Its mission is to provide support, services and reception to refugees and immigrants arriving in Spain. The NGO’s main efforts concentrate on social and labor inclusion, work training programs and humanitarian reception networks.
ACCEM has a nation-wide, temporary reception service, which responds to migrants’ most basic needs including accomodation. ACCEM also provides the tools to start the integration process: information, advice (legal and otherwise) and Spanish classes.
Currently, ACCEM has 370 welcome locations and centers across 17 Spanish provinces. Since 2007, ACCEM has also set up day centers for migrants who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations like homelessness or overcrowded housing. ACCEM has these centers in Valencia, Cartagena (Murcia) and Palos de la Frontera (Huelva). In 2017, ACCEM aided 14,441 immigrants and 11,477 refugees arriving in Spain.
CEAR – Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado or CEAR stands for The Spanish Commission for Refugees, and is a non-profit organization founded in 1979. CEAR’s mission is to defend human rights and protect and embrace refugees, stateless persons and migrants who need international protection or those who have been exposed to social exclusion. CEAR operates via two different arms: advocacy and social intervention.
The organization compiles reports, organizes campaigns and spreads awareness about refugee hardships. The CEAR team also makes court appearances to denounce instances of human rights’ violations against migrants and refugees. Starting in 2004, CEAR has published public annual reports outlining the situation of refugees in Spain and Europe.
In terms of social intervention, CEAR has a legal department that does pro bono work for asylum seekers. The organization also has a sheltering department that assists by offering temporary housing, a social department which works to help migrants assimilate into Spanish society and a training and employment department that helps migrants find work.
On the CEAR website, there are infographics explaining how to file for asylum and even testimonials from Venezuelan asylum seekers that help explain their plight. In this way, the organization encourages empathy among Spanish people for their new neighbors.
ONG Rescate: ONG Rescate, which translates to “NGO rescue,” is a Spanish non-profit founded in 1960. It is dedicated to serving refugees, migrants and victims of conflict and natural disasters, paying special attention to the most vulnerable subgroups like women and children.
The NGO implements projects both in Spain and internationally, with activities aimed at meeting both the basic needs of refugees and migrants and developing awareness campaigns about aid and development. The branch of the NGO that provides direct support to refugees and migrants in Spain offers welcome programs, psychological, social, labor and integration assistance.
They also provide migrants and refugees with temporary shelter, professional mentoring, Spanish classes and access to its “Befriending” program. The Befriending program is a volunteer initiative designed to create a social support network for refugees living in Spain by facilitating their contact with locals. Importantly, the NGO also works to raise awareness among the Spanish population about the precarious situations refugees face around the world and in their own country.
These three NGOs helping Venezuelan migrants in Spain are doing critical work in assisting people fleeing from a dire humanitarian crisis. As Venezuelan-born lawyer José Antonio Carrero explains, “[many migrants]arrive with nothing, or at the most 300 euros, and take it from there.” Venezuelan migrants often land in Spain with little or no idea of how to gain asylum, housing, or basic services and these three NGOs, alongside many others, are filling that gap and ensuring these migrants don’t have to suffer the same conditions they have just escaped from.
– Isabel Fernandez