The UNHCR Global Resettlement Solidarity Initiative called on states to pledge resettlement places for refugees ex-Libya stranded at the Libya-Tunisia border, and to implement an emergency resettlement programme. While the solidarity response of the EU Member States initially was moderate, in the end 10 European countries resettled refugees.
Spain's response is the first time the country has responded to a UNHCR resettlement request, under the new Spanish asylum law which provides a legal basis the resettlement of 80 refugees every year. On July 17th, 80 refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia who had been stranded for nearly a year at Shousha refugee camp in Tunisia arrived in Madrid. Representatives of the Ministry of the Interior conducted a selection mission in Shousha in June 2012, and the resettlement process - from selection to arrival - took approximately 3 months. The International Organization for Migration has in close coordination with UNHCR assisted the 80 refugees with their travel from Shousha camp to Madrid including the facilitation of departure and arrival procedures.
Refugees resettled to Spain will be supported by the government for a period of two years. Like asylum seekers, they are initially accommodated for up to 6 months in reception centres (“Centros de Acogida a Refugiados”). In Spain, these centres are either directly managed by the Ministry of Labour & Social Security, or by NGOs under contract with the Ministry. During their time in the centre, resettled refugees are provided with integration support by the NGOs ACCEM, CEAR and Cruz Roja, including cultural orientation, psychological support and language instruction. After they leave the reception centre resettled refugees move to municipalities, in most cases in the same where the reception centres are located. They will receive financial assistance to rent their own accommodation and to support themselves.
The economic and financial situation in Spain is now at its worst - social services are facing serious budgetary cuts and there are limited possibilities to find employment - so the refugees resettled to Spain as part of this new programme are likely to experience some challenges in their integration and settlement there. Nonetheless, resettlement to Spain from a camp situation as harsh and insecure as Shousha in Tunisia is a positive step for the group, and the ongoing integration support of the expert NGOs will help them to build their new lives in Spain.