A huge influx of asylum seekers in the past year — primarily from Venezuela and other Latin American countries — has led to what some are calling a “total collapse” of Spain’s system for sheltering and processing those seeking refugee status.
On Tuesday, the Spanish Committee for Refugee Aid (CEAR) called for the government to set up a national emergency program to handle the overflow of asylum claimants, which has filled up shelters run by regional and local governments around Spain and left some applicants for refugee status sleeping in the streets while waiting to have their claims processed.
According to government figures, some 95,000 individuals have applied for refugee and political asylum status in Spain so far this year, nearly double the number of applicants during 2018.
By most accounts, the huge spike in asylum claimants is due to the number of Venezuelans applying for refugee status because of the ongoing political and economic crisis in the South American country. At least a third — some say as many as 50 percent — of asylum applicants this year are Venezuelan nationals, with refugee-status seekers from other Latin American countries, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia, also contributing to the saturation of the system.
In Madrid and other cities around Spain, local government-run shelters shelters are at capacity and entire families of asylum seekers are camped on the street outside shelters, relying on the solidarity of local neighbors in providing blankets, warm clothing and food as winter approaches.
In Valencia, the huge number of asylum cases awaiting processing has reportedly caused law enforcement agencies to shift personnel to help out with the processing overload, causing investigators to temporarily abandon criminal investigations into human trafficking mafias bringing undocumented migrants into Spain.
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