The mayor of Almería has refused to add the city to a network of ‘refugee cities’ proposed by Barcelona and Madrid to welcome refugees from Syria and other troubled countries.
Rogelio Rodríguez-Connedador said responsibility for the refugee crisis is “outside the municipal scope of power” and should be left to “European institutions and member state governments”.
Left wing opposition party Izquierda Unida (IU) opposed such a stance however, lodging a motion with the city council, provincial and regional governments to join Almería into the project.
Party leader Rafael Esteban said the IU was “following public opinion” in proposing “immediate measures” to address the refugee problem such as establishing a “register of families that would like to receive refugees in their homes or could provide a flat for them”.
Opposition party Somos Mojacar has followed suit in Mojacar, proposing a motion that Mojacar join the network.
In the meantime various organizations across the province have come forward to offer aid.
El Saliente foundation for the disabled in Almería has offered accommodation and its “expertise in managing residential homes” to the Spanish government.
A spokesperson said: “We want to show solidarity in these complicated times with people who are having to flee their own countries”.
The workers union CCOO in Almería also announced it was available to collaborate in help schemes for refugees.
It offered its “premises, services and resources” to participate in any “coordinated political and civil initiative”, including its offices in Vera, El Ejido and Roquetas de Mar.
On the public front, lobby website change.org has launched a campaign to petition mayors across the province to declare their towns “refugee towns”.
Public reaction to the proposal is varied, however. While around 500 people have signed the petition so far, one Almería resident who did not wish to be named described the situation as “a can of worms”.
She said: “While everyone sympathises with the plight of refugees it is totally impractical to imagine they can be housed in people’s homes. There are too many unanswered questions – how long would it be for, what happens when the host family gets fed up?”
She added: “In a province such as Almería that is already suffering from high unemployment it is difficult to see how large numbers of refugees could be accommodated fairly and economically.”
For more on the story see the regional and national section of this paper.
PHOTO CAPTION: Jessica Simpson and Carlos Rodríguez of Somos Mojacar present a refugee aid motion at Mojacar town hall