By Spanish Red Cross

Spain has become the second most popular destination – after Italy – for people seeking refuge in Europe. In response, 2,000 Spanish Red Cross volunteers are present at ports and land borders to provide vital assistance to people as they arrive.

In the first half of 2017, more than 9,500 people arrived in Spain – an increase of 93 per cent over the same period in 2016. While two-thirds of all arrivals undertake a perilous sea journey, the rest enter the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla through Spain’s land borders with Morocco.

Red Cross volunteers are the first people those rescued at sea meet when they step on the shore. “The number of people our teams have assisted has grown steadily since 2010, but this year the need for our support has doubled,” said Iñigo Vila, head of Spanish Red Cross emergency response units.

“Our teams are prepared to provide even more support during what we expect to be some quite intense months ahead.”

Spanish Red Cross emergency response units are present at all ports to take care of anyone in need as soon as they arrive. Health care teams provide first aid and hospital referrals for people suffering dehydration, hypothermia and wounds – all common among people who have endured dangerous and brutal journeys to safety. Volunteers also provide food, hygiene kits, blankets and clothes.

At the official reception centres in Ceuta and Melilla, the Red Cross provides health care and psychosocial support as well as a range of classes included reading, writing and computer skills. Teams are also working with authorities to identify people who are most vulnerable, such as children travelling alone and people who may be victims of trafficking.

A decade of action

For the past ten years, Spanish Red Cross staff and volunteers have provided humanitarian assistance to more than 82,000 migrants across the country. In addition to assistance upon arrival, they also manage humanitarian programmes at the reception centres in mainland Spain with a focus on the most vulnerable groups.

Spanish Red Cross volunteers are often the first people refugees will see after a perilous journey.

Spanish Red Cross volunteers are often the first people refugees will see after a perilous journey.

“The increase in people seeking refuge in Spain, on top of the tens of thousands arriving in Italy, reflects how tough the situation continues to be in their home countries and during their journey,” said Christophe Lobry-Boulanger, IFRC’s Head of Europe Migration Operations.

“One-in-ten people surviving the treacherous journey to safety is from Syria, and extreme poverty is also driving people from other regions such as West Africa to escape.

“Whatever drives people to leave their homes, all migrants deserve dignity, support and protection,” he said. “The Spanish Red Cross volunteers play an important role in ensuring that people get the help they need as they arrive in the country and the next part of the journey to rebuilding lives begins.”