This is how life begins in Spain for the refugees that our country welcomes

Driss, Juana, Halyna and Basim have left everything in search of a better life after be forced to flee their countries and seek asylum in Spain. They have this common objective, but they are also united by what has been their first shelter in our country, the center of refugees of Accem in Sigüenza (Guadalajara)where they have started to build their future from scratch.

Wednesday, half past ten in the morning, a suffocating heat unusual at this time in the town of Seguntina, it is compulsory to have the windows and the door of the Spanish classroom open. Two women and five men listen carefully to the teacher and repeat his words.

It is one of the classes that Abdul Bashir Basim attends since he arrived in Spain nine months ago from Afghanistan and was referred to the Sigüenza refugee center, which Efe has visited on the occasion of the world refugee day which is celebrated this June 20.

From Kabul airport to Sigüenza restaurant

This 27-year-old Afghan is one of more than 2,400 citizens evacuated from Afghanistan by Spain last summer fleeing the Taliban regime. Like many of his compatriots, he already has refugee status: “I have requested asylum and they have granted it to me, I have a residence cardhe explains in a limited but willful Spanish.

Basim, who worked at the Kabul airport, fled with his uncle and with him shares one of the 8 double rooms in the centerwhich has 60 places for asylum seekers and 30 for humanitarian reception.

In addition to accommodation, meals and Spanish courses and basic social skillsusers receive psychological care, social support and guidance for their labor insertion or for access to education and health.

“When I arrived in Spain I didn’t know any Spanish, now with the classes I can communicate a little,” says this young man who has been working as a waiter for a month. “I am very happy and everything is fine in the coexistence”assures Basim, who nonetheless longs to return to his country.

Flee Ukraine in 2018, sign a mortgage in Spain in 2022

Halyna Hulii is blunt when asked if she wants to return to Ukraine. “In Spain I will never be able to feel like in Ukraine, but I’m fine and so is my family. I don’t want to go back, I wish my friends and parents could come here, but I don’t want to leave,” she confesses with tears in her eyes.

Four years ago, she left Ukraine with her 6-year-old son and her husband, who had already tried his luck alone in Poland after the war broke out in the Donbas area in 2014. They chose Spain because they had a friend in Albacetethere they lived for a time without papers but in the end they asked Accem for help.

“I wanted to go near the sea, when they told us that we were going to live in Sigüenza, I got very sad, I didn’t know where that little town was, but They told us that we were very lucky to go to that center and the truth is that it was like that”recalls this 34-year-old Ukrainian, who lived with her family for five months in the center.

They did it in one of the 16 apartments that the families manage autonomously, unlike the refugees who arrive alone, who use the daily dining service.

Halyna and her husband they have bought a flat and signed a mortgage, they work in the same restaurant -she was an accountant in her country-, her eldest son “receives grades of 10 in Spanish” and the little one who is a year and a half “is very adapted”. Now, in her spare time, she works as an interpreter for her compatriots who are fleeing the war and “arrive lost.”

Unlike them, who are granted authorization to reside and work, Halyna was denied asylum when she arrived in Spain. However, both she and her husband have worked since then and it has allowed them to obtain a residence permit for work roots.

Achieving nationality, objective four years after leaving Venezuela

The story of Juana Blanco has been repeated quite regularly in Spain since 2019, when as a result of the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela the Government began to grant protection to these citizens for humanitarian reasons.

Precisely this June 20, three years have passed since the arrival in Spain of Juana and her husband, who a year earlier they had left Venezuela to Peru. She tells the story of her with her little Jara in her arms, who will be three years old on August 6.

He was born four days after arriving in Sigüenza. “Everything was spectacular. Until now they have given us the help that we have needed”, thanks this 27-year-old sociologist, who recalls that initially they were denied asylum, although they were given protection for humanitarian reasons. His authorization has changed since he started working: he has a temporary residence permit and he works as an employee.

Juana, her husband and little Jara shared an apartment with a Colombian family first and then with a Ukrainian. While, He trained in hospitality at the Parador de Sigüenza and after six months they went to live in a rented flat.

“It’s hard to find people want guarantees that you will pay them, they do not trustthey ask you for the last two pay slips or the work contract and obviously we still don’t have a job,” says Juana, who points out that thanks to the mediation of a worker from the center, they rented the apartment in which they continue to live.

His next goal is to achieve Spanish nationality. He already has an appointment for the knowledge test that is required of them: “Let’s see if we can make it so we can be a little calmer.”

From an agricultural engineer in Algeria to a social worker in Spain

Who does have dual nationality is Driss Sadi Miri, Algerian and Spanish, He is 58 years old, married and has two children born in Spain. He is the social worker who helped Juana find a flat.

But Driss did not imagine his life that way when he arrived in Barcelona 30 years ago – “the last day of the Olympic Games” – fleeing from one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of Algeria, the “black decade”, a civil war that cost the lives of nearly 300,000 people.

“I was an activist and I had to leave for political reasons. I left with another colleague and we arrived with a tourist visa”relates this agricultural engineer, who admits that his intention was to go to Canada to continue his training, but they could not do so due to lack of financial means.

“Life is so. Then I liked Spain, I stayed, I learned the language…”recalls this Algerian for whom the mere fact of leaving your country and arriving in another without knowing the language “is a big shock, but at that moment you are young and you come with the idea that you have to start from scratch”.

Until 1994 he was without papers, Spain later created a specific figure for Algerians that granted them a special permit to live and work. Driss began working as an interpreter at the centerhe obtained the title of mediator, a master’s degree and for three decades he has been helping others who have gone through the same thing as him.

He did not apply for nationality after 10 years living in Spain -as the law allows-, he did so when his children were born. “Maybe I don’t need it, but my children yes, they are Spanish, they were born here and Algeria for them is the country of their parents”, emphasizes.

It took Driss 9 years to return to his country for the first time, but now he tries to go at least once a year. On occasion he has thought of returning, but at his age he already rules it out: “We have a short life and one is not going to start every ten years from scratch.”

The refugee center, a dynamic factor in Sigüenza

In these 30 years of life of the center, Driss has verified the evolution of the town itself with the migration. “Before there were twelve of us and if you went out for a drink at the bar, everyone turned around. Now all the companies and bars have a high percentage of foreigners working.”

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The center has become “one more actor in the municipality”, explains the person in charge of Accem in Sigüenza, Ana Belén Sanz, who underlines that during these years it has been necessary to do a “work of knowledge, rapprochement and participation” but now the reality of the locality “has an enormous cultural diversity”.

“Around 40 or 45 different languages ​​are handledthere is diversity in the classrooms, in all the companies there are foreigners, the center has become a dynamic element of the territory”, he concludes.

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