The invasion of Ukraine by Russia led to the closure of all Ukrainian airspace and the cancellation of flights from Thursday morning, with an initial forecast of not returning to any kind of normality until at least next week. For a number of tourists currently in Barcelona, this has not only left them trapped, unable to catch a plane to return to their country, but also, unable to withdraw money from ATMs or use their credit cards, due to the blocking of accounts of the Ukrainian banks themselves. In this context, the Barcelona city council has announced on Friday that it has attended to two hundred people from Ukraine, some residents in Barcelona and others tourists.
According to the Barcelona city councillor responsible for social rights, Laura Pérez, the social services area in Barcelona has assisted “two hundred people, most already with residence here, as well as tourists who have found themselves with problems in returning to their country”. According to Pérez, both groups have "a very high level of anxiety", because of the stress of not knowing how to get home and worry about the situation of their families in Ukraine. In the case of the tourists, without quantifying how many have been trapped in Barcelona, she assured that actions are being coordinated with the Ukrainian consulate.
However, she pointed out that many of the tourists have a "network in Barcelona", within the community of 5,300 Ukrainians living in the capital of Catalonia, but that demands are currently being met in the field of social support due to "lack of access to money." For the moment, "requests for accommodation" have not been received, but there are requests for legal aid regarding asylum applications, as, according to Pérez, the Spanish state has a restrictive attitude in this regard. The city's fourth-ranked deputy mayor also wanted to make it clear that the requests for assistance are not, at the moment, from people who may have arrived fleeing the war, but from tourists who have found themselves without a way home. "Finding the way to get home is their first request," he added.
Ready "for what may happen"
Despite this, she indicated that the city council is preparing "for what may happen" in the face of a possible arrival of refugees, a fact that, so far, has not occurred but cannot be ruled out, as it is predicted that a wave of refugees will first head to the countries bordering Ukraine, but could reach Catalonia in the medium term.
Social Rights offers hostel places
Meanwhile, the Catalan government's department of social rights has offered to host Ukrainian families who are in Catalonia (mostly tourists) in the hostels it mantains in Barcelona, Coma-ruga, Vic and L'Espluga de Francolí, which are part of the Youth Hostel Network of Catalonia (XANASCAT). The ministry reports that, so far, 17 people have expressed interest in going to one of these facilities. The social rights department details that they will also provide travel to these hostels in case of need.