• European mayors to create ‘network of cities’ for refugee relief, resettlement
• Despite Spanish government opposition, ‘Mayors of Change’ pledge support
Mayors of European cities — including four of the so-called “Mayors of Change” from Spain — ended a two-day summit on the refugees crisis hosted by the Vatican on Sunday with an agreement to create a network of municipal officials across Europe who are “capable of providing welcoming cities that know how to create regular and secure human corridors” for refugees, in keeping with the mandate to provide assistance to refugees recognized by the United Nations and other bodies.
Among the participants were four of Spain’s “Mayors of Change,” Manuela Carmena (Madrid), Ada Colau (Barcelona), Joan Ribó (Valencia) and Pedro Santisteve (Zaragoza), elected in a May 2015 wave of municipal election victories across Spain by local activist platforms and party coalitions backed by the national anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) and others. Also attending from Spain was mayor Francisco De La Torre (Malaga) of Spain’s conservative governing Partido Popular (PP).
Organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the two-day meeting ended called for greater efforts on the part of European governments to help refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and ended with a joint-statement calling for creation of a network of cities to involve civil society throughout Europe in providing humanitarian relief and resettlement assistance to the refugees.
Speaking to reporters during the conclave, Barcelona mayor Colau and Madrid mayor Carmena had said efforts by their cities in Spain to provide shelter and assistance to refugees had been blocked by Spain’s federal government in Madrid, on the grounds that international refugee assistance was the competency of the central government and cities were not themselves able to take the initiative in such areas.