BARCELONA, Spain – As Europe continues to contend with the flood of refugees from the Middle East, WND took to the streets of Barcelona Thursday to gauge local response to a proposal by the city’s activist mayor for volunteers to house the incoming migrants.
The vast majority of Barcelona residents interviewed expressed deep sympathy for the refugees and strongly supported the Spanish government’s decision to take in nearly 20,000 of those fleeing Syria.
Most residents queried also supported the mayor’s aid plan. Yet when asked if they would personally house the refugees, every Barcelona resident interviewed responded in the negative.
Earlier this week, Spain agreed to accept as many refugees as proposed by the European Commission, with the number now set at more than 19,000 to be resettled in Spain.
In August, Barcelona’s new mayor, Ada Colau, backed by the left-wing Podemos party, posted an emotional plea on her Facebook page calling for European citizens to put aside their “fear” of the “other,” stop using terms like “illegal alien” and instead create a “network of cities of refuge.”
Last week, Colau partnered with the city of Madrid to back a campaign that has created a registrar of households ready to donate material goods to the refugees while seeking volunteers to provide housing and shelter for a period of time.
Colau’s office says it received more than 1,200 offers from residents to provide everything from food to housing to language lessons. Barcelona city hall said it is working to coordinate with the “many Barcelona families” that have “offered to receive refugees.”
Yet the municipality refused to provide a breakdown of the exact number of residents who offered to open up their homes to the incoming immigrants and would not even give a rough estimate when asked by phone and email inquiry.
WND deployed to Rambla del Poblenou, a main thoroughfare in Barcelona’s popular Sant Martí district, and interviewed 22 local residents about the immigration crisis and Colau’s call for residents to house the refugees.
Marc Botey, a 50-something local, demanded that fellow Barcelona residents provide assistance while calling on all of Europe to “send a message to the world that Europe is not the bureaucracy [of politicians]. Europe is the people that helps, like in Berlin.”
He lectured that Europe “needs to suffer little revolutions inside the countries to start a big revolution for the whole Europe to erase this kind of (political) class that only goes to Brussels to the parliament … to spend the money.”
Following his pro-immigrant political rhapsody, Botey was asked if he would personally house any refugees. He said he cannot.
“I have a very small home, four in two rooms,” he explained.
“But they are suffering,” WND replied.
“Yes I’m suffering,” he responded. “But if I could, I [would] offer a house, a room.”
Noella Crespio, a 30-something woman dining with three friends in an upscale cafe, similarly stated that “we are obligated” to help.
“We are one of the main cities of the world, so we have to give an example,” she told WND.
Asked if she would provide shelter, Crespio stated, “Me? Maybe not, because I can’t afford it; but my family, I think they would do it.”
Listen to Aaron Klein’s interviews with Barcelona residents:
Alec Osyshenko, a Russian immigrant living in Barcelona for the past eight years, called Colau’s housing plan a “good humanitarian act.”
“Spain should participate somehow,” he said. “I think Barcelona should participate” by making “some effort to give houses and food to the refugees.”
Osyshenko, however, said he is “not really in a position” to take anyone into his own home.
Lola Cheralt, a senior citizen and Barcelona resident, expressed support for bringing refugees into Spain in manageable quotas. But she said she fears the economy is too weak to sustain larger numbers and says she would not provide housing herself.
“In Germany now everyone is ‘welcome, welcome,’ but I don’t know in four months what will happen,” she said.
Andy Tivayos, a college student, said it’s a “good idea” to house refugees. He said he cannot personally take any of them in because he lives in an apartment with roommates.
Arnav, a taxi driver who immigrated here from India 17 years ago, said the Spanish people “have a big heart and always welcome people from abroad. They have immigrant culture.”
He said it’s “important for Barcelona to do its part to help these people.”
Yet he admitted he would not want any refugees to stay in his home.