The center for refugees from Ukraine starts operating at the Fira de Barcelona after its express opening

The reception center for Ukrainian refugees in the Barcelona Fair is already up and running. Despite the speed with which it has been launched, so some things are not yet fully operational, it is already working to issue temporary protection papers and find hotel accommodation for those who have nowhere to sleep. Organized by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrationjust like the centers of Pozuelo and Alicanteis operated by Red Cross and also has the coordination of the Generalitat and the Barcelona’s town hall. At the moment More than 14,000 people have already arrived in Catalonia from Ukraine, although some would only be passing through, according to the latest update from the Generalitat.

In the vicinity of pavilion 7 of the Fira there is a constant bustle of people, between refugees and tourists who come to the MNAC and the fountains of Montjuic. Among the Ukrainians, especially families, with children, the elderly and also some pets. Romana Gorbach He has approached with his mother and his nephew, recently arrived in Barcelona. She, a journalist, has been living in Catalonia for a couple of years and has tried to call to make an appointment —they only attend if you have one— but she says that she has not been able to do so and that is why they have come directly. “There’s a long waiting list, I’ll have to keep calling,” she explains.

They only attend by appointment, but the lines to request it are collapsed

If they can’t, they will try to go elsewhere to apply for temporary protection. “They want to go back to Ukraine, to see if they can do it in one or two months. We want peace, they want to go home“, he says, about his relatives.

Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to process documentation

The center opened its doors on Friday, although it still took a few hours to be fully operational. It opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to process the documentation, facilitated by fifty agents from the National Police. However, it is open 24 hours a day from Monday to Sunday to offer assistance in emergency situations, for example if people need accommodation. In a short time, several Red Cross vans are filled with women with small children to accompany them to the hotels designated for this purpose.

Christina He went out to rest for a while. She wears a fluorescent vest where she says “translator” in both Catalan and Ukrainian. She is from there, but she has lived practically her entire life in Catalonia. She explains that she is not a translator by profession, she has another job, but she has offered to volunteer in an emergency. “Many people come without an appointment, but here we don’t give. They must keep calling. Most want to register, but the lines are collapsed. She has gone all too fast,” she says.

It is not enabled as accommodation, but the pavilion has 200 beds to rest

The City Council has made emergency and reception services available to the refugees, as well as a team of about 50 people, between volunteers and technicians, who offer psychosocial support, among others. Although they cannot stay overnight in the center, the pavilion has 200 beds to rest and a dining area, infirmary and playroom for children.

Olga She has been staying with her family for two weeks in a hotel in Santa Susanna (Maresme) managed by the Red Cross, together with about 600 Ukrainian refugees. He has left the center for a while to smoke while they finish their papers. They have indeed been able to make an appointment – he explains that he has called 34 times to get it – and now they will obtain the documentation that will allow them to regularize their situation in Catalonia. They will be able to work and also send their six-year-old son to school.

Olga is here with her husband and mother-in-law. originating from Donetsk, they moved to kyiv in 2014, when the war began in the border region with Russia. “I want to stay here. I would like the war to end soon, but I don’t think so,” she laments. Her arrival in Catalonia was peculiar, as she explains, because on February 24, when the Russian invasion began, they were on vacation in Egypt. They were supposed to return to the Ukraine on the 26th, and they no longer did. “We came straight, with nothing“, it says.

Nerves and uncertainty, but also relief

The feeling that prevails around the center is one of anguish, nerves and sadness, but there are also relieved faces among the people who leave and some smiles. There is also uncertainty and doubt. A lady arrives asking what she has to do to process the documentation for her mother and her nephew, and they tell her that she must first call the phone number written on a poster with the Ukrainian flag in the background. Everyone talks on their cell phones, all the time. A young woman comes out with her son, just over a year old, holding hands, with a chihuahua in her arms, and with two older ladies carrying another chihuahua. She apologizes that she is too overwhelmed to be able to answer the questions.

Volodimir, from Mariúpol, obtains temporary protection after spending time in an irregular situation in Catalonia

Volodymyr —”as our president”, he introduces himself— exits with a firm step. He has also achieved temporary protection papers. He is from Mariupol, the city of Donetsk that has been under a Russian offensive for days that has devastated it. “My house is now destroyed. It was a five-story block, luckily when it exploded there was no one inside, “he explains.

Volodimir has been living in Catalonia for years: in 2014, with the start of the war in Donetsk, he left the country. Although he had obtained asylum and had a NIE, it was not renewed and he had been in an irregular situation for some time. “Now I have received new papers and I want to bring my sister and aunt,” he explains. So far they have managed to get out of Mariupol, but not from the Ukraine, although he hopes they will be able to do so soon.

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