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The Crisis of Spain Refugee Service Center

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The year 2023 is very important because it is the “election year” for Spain. Municipal elections will be held on 28 May 2023 and general elections will be held on 10 December 2023. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and Podemos, which formed a coalition government in the last elections, will fight for power against the right-wing People’s Party (PP) and VOX Party alliance in the next elections, according to the polls.[1]

The refugee crisis, which is deepening day by day in the political environment where the elections are approaching and the tension is rising, causes serious consequences. The aforementioned crisis continues to maintain its place on Spain’s agenda. Simultaneously, the government, led by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, implements the international and supranational commitments undertaken by the country in foreign policy; In domestic politics, it seeks to reduce the negative repercussions of these events. The opposition, on the other hand, is trying to turn Sánchez’s dilemma into an opportunity.

The refugee crisis, which started with the civil wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, deepened even more with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022. While the European continent is grappling with the immigration issue; Spain also has its share of this problem.

Currently, Spain receives intensive immigration from Iberian America. In addition, there are asylum applications from other regions, mainly from North Africa.

According to the data published by the Madrid administration towards the end of 2022, the number of Ukrainians who took refuge in the country exceeded 150,000; These refugees bring with them various problems.[2] While the Sánchez administration started to work on increasing the capacity of refugee service centers in Alcobendas, Vallecas, Mistala and Sevilla, which are active in Spain, in order to overcome the said crisis; In coordination, it is also trying to increase Spain’s capacity to receive refugees.

In line with the Sánchez Government’s project to open new refugee service centers, in November 2022, Mayor of Azuqueca de Henares, José Luis Blanco, shared on Facebook that Azuqueca de Henares, as well as Valladolid, Soria and Mérida, are among the regions where it was decided to open a refugee service center. announced.[3]

The mentioned initiative gives a careless and superficial impression due to the content of the announcement and the platform on which it was made. The reason for this situation is most likely the public reaction to an initiative that will lead to more refugees. On the other hand, considering that the mayors of the designated regions support the PSO, it can be stated that the Sánchez Government is doing a heartbeat.

With the addition of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, which is governed by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which belongs to the far-right ideology, among the regions where new centers will be opened, after the Sánchez Government took the pulse, the said service centers led to the reaction of the opposition and the political crisis that followed.

PNV protested this decision, which was taken with a one-sided and top-down logic. The situation in question pushed the government to reconsider the project. Announcing that the project will also be implemented in Vitoria-Gasteiz as the municipal elections approached, the opposition of the PNV was questioned and it was thought that an attempt was started to reduce the vote share in the region.

The reactions of the PNV spread over time to the People’s Party and the VOX Party. Therefore, on 11 December 2022, protests were held in the Azuqueca de Henares region against the project.

As the elections approached in Spain, the Sánchez Government faced a serious dilemma in the refugee service center crisis in the country. It can be said that the reactions of various sections of the country are not unfounded. The fact that the origins of the refugees who will come to the centers planned to be established are not known and that they do not return to Spain after they arrive, is seen as a worrying situation by the opposition. In addition, considering the examples in other European countries, it can be argued that new refugees will increase crime rates.

On the other hand, only 13% of the approximately 150 thousand refugees accepted by Spain since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War have been able to be employed.[4]

As a result, Spain is the country with the highest unemployment rate in Europe. Ukrainian refugees also exacerbate existing socio-economic problems. The mass movements that started in the country also threaten the socio-cultural structure.[5] The fact that the earnings of Ukrainian workers are below the minimum living standards is another phenomenon that worries the public. Considering all these problems and the criticisms of the conservative opposition, the answer to the question of how Sánchez will balance between foreign and domestic politics remains unclear.


[1] “Así están las encuestas para las elecciones generales”, El Confidencial, https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/observatorio-electoral/2023-01-16/encuestas-elecciones-generales-feijoo-aumenta-ventaja-sanchez_3434093/, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

[2] “España supera las 150.000 protecciones temporales a refugiados de Ucrania”, Lamoncloa, https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/serviciosdeprensa/notasprensa/interior/Paginas/2022/261022-refugiados-ucrania.aspx, (Date of Accession: 26.10.2022).

[3] “El Gobierno construirá en Azuqueca un centro de acogida de inmigrantes en una parcela de 11.500 metros cuadrados”, MiraCorredor, https://www.miracorredor.tv/el-gobierno-construira-en-azuqueca-un-centro-de-acogida-de-inmigrantes-en-una-parcela-de-11-500-metros-cuadrados/, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[4] “La mitad de los ucranianos refugiados en Salamanca ya la han abandonado”, Lagaceta de Salamanca, https://www.lagacetadesalamanca.es/salamanca/la-mitad-de-los-ucranianos-refugiados-en-salamanca-ya-la-han-abandonado-CK13087432, (Date of Accession: 21.10.2023).

[5] “El paro de la eurozona continúa en mínimos históricos con un 6,5%”, Cinco Días, https://cincodias.elpais.com/cincodias/2023/01/09/economia/1673259412_047689.html, (Date of Accession: 09.10.2023).