Refugees are a reality: they’re already here among us and they have been stripped of their dignity.
By the end of 2016, Spain had welcomed only 898 of the more than 17,000 refugees it had promised to take in, according to statistics from CEAR (the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid). That’s under 5% of the total.
It’s also unacceptable that almost half of the 2015 European funds for the refugee reception scheme went instead to pay for expulsions and to finance foreigner internment centres, which Catalan society clearly does not approve of.
We know who is to blame for this situation. But today isn’t just about talking about those who are guilty, but also about those responsible. And we are all responsible.
Supporting the right to asylum cannot be an ideological objective, nor tied to a political colour. Nor can it depend on social or economic situations.
Welcoming people who have had to leave their homes against their will simply has to be a human objective, shared by all of us. It’s that simple.
Whilst many of our neighbouring societies are still debating about whether they have to go through with welcoming refugees, in Catalonia we are discussing the responsibilities, tools and resources available, and how we can do better. Let’s heed society’s demands and make the most of them urgently, because the emergency cannot wait.
Everyone, in their own sphere and within their own ability, has room to take action and to do better. Starting with ourselves, the citizens. Followed by local councils, the Catalan government and the Spanish State.
We’re another link in the chain of generations of Catalans who, through shared struggles, have forged the people that we are today. Migration has always been a fact of this country, we’ve all been migrants. We recognise the unity in diversity and that Catalonia has won its social and democratic victories when we have moved forward together.
Now we have the opportunity and the duty to do it again. We need to build a great social pact and stand together to defend the right to asylum. We also want to meet our solemn commitment to improve the situation of the migrants who are already here. To do so, we need to come together and organise ourselves: citizens, organisations and the administration.
Today’s demonstration will be a great success if we manage to become a historical reference point for ourselves and if we inspire similar movements around Europe. A Europe of multi-coloured, responsible people can help to make the monocoloured guilty, with their fixed ideas, stop and think.
The Catalan institutions, including us, the citizenry, have in our hands the ability to give dignity to the migrants and their lives in essential areas. And any progress made in those areas will eventually benefit society as a whole.
Let’s do it.
 – This article is from Saturday, 18 February, when more than 160,000 people demonstrated in central Barcelona in the Volem Acollir (We want to welcome [them]) protest.