RECEPTION PROGRAMMES IN CATALONIA

ELS PROGRAMES D'ACOLLIDA A CATALUNYA

Reception programmes focus on access to and the use of public resources. However, as there are different services and they are located in different parts of towns, cities and regions, it is essential that newcomers be offered an open itinerary that enables them to get to resources easily in order to find out about them.

As a general recommendation, we believe that the first step in such an itinerary should be to sign up for inclusion on the population register (empadronament) at a citizen’s services office.

The itinerary continues with the information services directing you to other services, in line with your needs. Signing up for inclusion on the population register enables you to move on to the next stage in your itinerary, as it is one of the requisites for access to other basic services, including:

  • health services, upon obtaining a personal health card.

  • education services, to sign up for training courses.

  • vocational integration and advisory programmes.

  • services for making housing more accessible, such as the social rental mediation network.

Signing up for inclusion on the population register (empadronament) not only opens the doors to services related to basic requirements, but also enables you to continue further on your itinerary, as it is one of the requisites for accessing social services, requesting any kind of support from the civil services, renting a home or signing up for water, gas or electricity supplies.

Local authorities, i.e. town or city councils (ajuntaments) and regional councils (consells comarcals), have established reception plans to allow for a coordinated response from the various services involved.
Local receptionplans usually encompass the following services:

  • Legal advice and information for foreigners
    (Informació i assessorament jurídic sobre estrangeria)
    These services provide information on requisites, conditions and required documentation, as well as on the procedures for family reunification and for obtaining work and residency permits or Spanish nationality, etc. The services in question may be based in the town or city in which you live or in a neighbouring area.

  • Language induction
    (Acolliment lingüístic)
    One of the basic needs of newcomers is to be able to make contact and communicate with people in general. As many immigrants do not speak Catalan, the authentic language of Catalonia, the Consortium for Linguistic Normalisation (Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística) promotes language induction for adults. The association organises courses with different levels throughout Catalonia and encourages intercultural relationships through a language partner scheme.
    The Law on reception for immigrants and returnees to Catalonia also provides newcomers the right to acquire basic linguistic competences in Catalan and Spanish, through the first reception services.
    Primary and secondary schools have reception classrooms (aules d’acollida) for newly arrived children and teenagers who are unfamiliar with Catalan.

  • Promotion of familiarity with surroundings
    (Promoció del coneixement de l'entorn)
    Upon arriving in a new society, it is necessary to get to know the surroundings in which you will be living, including the area’s history, where the local services are and how they work, the values of public-spiritedness and harmonious co-existence, etc.
    Reception plans encompass various resources for making it easier to find out about all the above:

  • Welcome sessions (Sessions de benvinguda). The town or city council regularly holds meetings for those who have recently been included on the population register, in order to welcome you, to introduce the municipality, its services and facilities, and to tell you about the various resources for aiding your reception. In such meetings, you will also be invited to take part in sociocultural education sessions.

  • Sociocultural education sessions (Sessions de formació sociocultural). The aim of these sessions is to make you more familiar with your new town or city and your host society, as well as to tell you about basic aspects of the social services and the public health, education, employment and housing systems, where they are and how to get there. You will also find out about civic customs and rules, and the importance of citizen participation through forming and belonging to associations.

  • Town or city councils and local bodies may organise informative and introductory visits to public facilities (libraries, sports centres, civic centres, theatres, etc.) and local associations (associations of neighbours, associations of parents of pupils, unions, cultural, sports and recreational organisations, etc.).

  • Reception guides (Guies d’acollida). Local reception programmes usually have reception guides, which serve as a source of information for individuals and groups. Such guides are official publications translated into different languages, containing information on the public and private resources available to you in your town or city (including the name of each resource, the services it offers, its address, the times at which it is open to the public and its contact details), based on your requirements and how far along your reception itinerary you are.

You will also find other guides in a range of languages on specific topics, including health, education, public-spiritedness and co-existence, work, etc. The guides in question provide more detailed information on resources, meaning that their usefulness extends beyond the reception process, as you will be able to refer to them later on, when you have settled in Catalonia (for example, when your children switch from primary school to secondary school, or if you want to buy a home or set up a business).

  • Translation and interpreting service
    (Servei de traducció i interpretació)
    In order to ensure equal conditions for the entire population, translators and interpreters are available to those who do not speak Catalan or Spanish during interviews with employees of public services (when visiting the doctor or enrolling your children at a school, for example).
    Most local bodies have pools of translators and interpreters who provide services for the various professionals upon request.

  • Activities for promoting a welcoming society
    (Activitats per promoure una societat acollidora)
    Reception-related needs are not limited to access to public resources; there is also a social aspect, in the form of integration as citizens into everyday life and the activities of associations. Consequently, there are measures for encouraging participation, promoting mutual familiarity and raising awareness among the entire population, as well as for fostering harmonious co-existence in the public arena.

The aims of those measures are:

  • To actively incorporate foreign citizens into the different aspects of the life of the town or city (society, culture, sports and recreation, etc.).

  • To provide solutions when differences arise with regard to interests, uses and customs, as well as to encourage interrelation between immigrants and all other citizens, and to facilitate mutual adaptation in the public arenas of the town or city.

The activities in question support the network of associations through projects designed to raise the population’s awareness of migration and its consequences. The aim is to offer adequate information on the situation with regard to migration, its impact on Catalan society and what it has to offer; in short, to publicise its positive effects.

One of the ways in which Catalan people demonstrate their hospitable nature is through accompaniment initiatives, implemented by volunteers from associations who offer to accompany newcomers on visits to their local resources. Newcomers can also be accompanied by their relatives or compatriots, who are the first to welcome immigrants to their new home. It is therefore important for the entire population to be involved in the reception process.