Tue. Feb 25th, 2020

The UN route through the Spain of poverty – La Provincia

02-14-2020 | 10:53
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Twenty pages of terrible shame. This could be the main conclusion of the report he prepared the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, after passing through Spain at the beginning of February. The Australian, human rights expert, toured those lands that does not appear in tourist guides. “I visited areas that I suspect many Spaniards would not recognize as part of their country. Neighborhoods with much worse conditions than a refugee camp, without running water, electricity or sanitation for years. Neighborhoods where families raise children without social services, health centers , employment offices, police stations, with unpaved streets and houses punctured by electric current, “he detailed in his analysis. A visit that he himself resolved in a headline: Spain has emerged from the crisis ruling for the rich and forgetting the poor.

Since 2014 the rapporteur has toured Chile, Romania, Mauritania, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ghana, Laos and Malaysia. At the beginning of 2019 he decided that his last trip taking office would be for one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. He has been collecting statistics for a whole year, contacting experts and social entities in Spain, aware that I also needed a reality bath. The expert visited six autonomous communities: Galicia, Extremadura, Andalusia, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Madrid. He stepped on shacks, villages, and depressed neighborhoods.

Poverty in Spain, in graphics

And on February 7, Alston issued his verdict. Social policies in this country are “broken”, they are “inefficient”, poverty has only increased and, all this has happened “with the approval of the rulers”, would be the brief summary of their experience. The text points directly to the policies of the PP during the two mandates of Mariano Rajoy that, so far, have not been reversed. Alston hoped to find a country where family support resists exclusion, but there are areas of Spain where that no longer exists. “Spain today needs to look closely in the mirror. The image of an entrenched family society has been fractured by the economic crisis and neoliberal policies. Family networks that had been historically important serve the well-off, but have been undermined for most. Today, Spain is at the bottom of the EU in too many social indicators. “

The data provided by the report are chilling: Post-crisis Spain records more poverty and exclusion, more unemployment and more school dropout, while the rich increasingly have more money and pay less taxes. Is there anyone in charge? “The message of the new coalition government is welcome, but we must act and abandon the rhetoric,” he said.

Poverty in Spain, in graphics

The rapporteur’s conclusions point in several directions. Talk about social services “collapsed by bureaucracy”, insufficient social assistance, such as non-contributory pensions that do not reach 400 euros per month. School segregation covers a large part of the report, in which it reports the injustice that there are families who cannot afford their children’s textbooks. The health system, one of the best valued, also receives a slap when the rapporteur mentions pharmaceutical poverty, the law that restricts the access of immigrants and the privatization of public services where the ministry itself “could not say how much it had been privatized and nor what impact it had had. ” As the most vulnerable groups, Alston points to women, especially those who have suffered gender-based violence and those who work in domestic work. It also devotes an important space to migrants, “excluded from any aid”, and to those of Roma, where poverty rates soar. “The rulers admit that the situation for many Roma is serious, but I was struck by the lack of urgency and resignation with which they accepted that entire parts of the population have been relegated to a third-class state without access to the rights that they belong to them “.

Poverty in Spain, in graphics

One of the most extensive sections devoted to the report is the housing problem. “In Spain there are no cheap houses,” he concludes after pointing out real estate speculation, the huge number of evictions and the dramatic increase in the rental price in recent years. It also denounces the drama of energy poverty, and the fact that “families have to decide whether they eat or if they put on heating.” Not to mention the problem of the homeless, the difficulty of registering and the fact that the rulers, especially of the autonomous communities, are not facing the problem.

The great solution posed by the rapporteur is to end tax fraud, that the Government itself did not know how to quantify it, put an end to the tax deductions of the highest incomes, and urgently address the issue of housing. Beyond the national plan, which plans to build 20,000 social protection homes, the rapporteur Bet on intervening the rental market and regulating house prices, retroactively. He also points out that the Catalan law against energy poverty is “a step in the right direction”, and dictates that the State should establish a minimum income for the entire population.

The following is a tour of some of the areas Alston visited to see first hand the reason for his concerns.

Escort service by bus to children who live in centers far from the school, in Monfero.

Monfero (A Coruña) as an example of depopulation and lack of opportunities

Aging, depopulation, absence of job opportunities and lack of services aggravated by the dispersion of the population. These are some of the interconnected problems that the neighbors of the rural municipality of Monfero, in A Coruña, and that they transmitted to the rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights of the UN, Philip Alston, in his visit to the municipality on January 28.

In 1981 Monfero had 3,587 inhabitants. Last year the figure had decreased to 1,932 neighbors, according to the Galician Institute of Statistics (IGE). In 2018 there were seven births and 46 deaths. A total of 666 neighbors, 34.5%, are 65 years of age or older. According to the social worker of the City of Monfero, María del Carmen Sieiro, present at the meeting with Alston, this creates a risk of social exclusion. “There are more and more older people whose family moved to the cities to look for work,” he says, “and they are left alone.”

This generates a “social isolation”: older people who barely leave home or see other people, with difficulties in accessing services. If they have a family, women systematically take care of care. The president of the Association of Nais e Pais (Anpa) of the Virxe da Cela schoolJorge Pena, who also attended the meeting, demands better health care for the elderly, to which Sieiro adds services to rural dependency and dynamism.

The Virxe da Cela is the only educational center in Monfero, and serves students in the neighboring municipality of Irixoa. It offers Pre-school, Primary and Secondary education, but in order to take a Baccalaureate, young people have to go to other locations. Population dispersion, according to the head of Secondary Studies, Rosalia Regueiro, also present at the meeting with Alston, is what “most affects” the students: Monfero has 171 square kilometers and its neighbors are distributed in dozens of small villages and nuclei. After the school day, some students wait 45 minutes by bus before arriving at their homes.

There are nuclei with only one family with minor children, so “the sociability of these children is school,” says Regueiro. The situation worsens, says Sieiro, because of the “lack of public transport”. From school they try to replace the “lack of leisure opportunities and activities”, but Pena points out that children have to move “10 or 15 kilometers to take a computer course or English”.

“Anyone who is going to live in the rural world has to know that their income will go down.”

In the last year with data from the municipality, in 2016, the GDP per capita in Monfero was 16,954 euros, 70.7% of the national average. “Anyone who is going to live in the rural world has to accept that their income will go down,” says Pena. However, there is hardly any extreme poverty. Sieiro, who has experience working in cities, points out that in Monfero there are “very few people asking for survival benefits.” Many families have older relatives who have pensions, houses owned and lands where they grow food.

The demand for work focuses on care, forestry and services, according to the labor counselor of the Irixoa City Council, Ursula of the Tower, which serves the neighbors of Monfero and other municipalities without their own service. In 2019 there were 57 unemployed in Monfero, and the people with the most difficulties of insertion are young people without training, long-term unemployed and over 45 years. Sieiro considers that in this age group there are people with little training, and with experience, in the case of women, in socio-health care, and in that of men, in construction and agriculture. In general, he says, there is pessimism: they do not believe that there are job opportunities in their environment.

A perception shared by the youngest, says Regueiro, when teachers guide them towards a career or a training cycle: “They realize that for all these options they would have to go outside, and that the working world that awaits them is not here “. Getting them to stay, says Regueiro, “can only be done under the umbrella of the Administration.”

Pena, economist by profession, believes that it is necessary to adapt the regulations to the reality of the countryside, reducing the quota of freelancers or the technical conditions necessary to carry out entrepreneurship projects in rural land. “We do not ask for help such as palliative care,” he says, “but the same rights and opportunities that everyone has: education, health and justice.”

Another problem is access to technology. Telephone coverage “is nil,” Regueiro notes. Internet is currently required to perform administrative procedures or look for work, but many people have Difficulties accessing a point from which to connect, or, in the case of older people, they don’t know how to do it.

There are, however, advantages of living in the rural world, Pena considers, such as tranquility and security. Sieiro adds that the quality of life is high, and that “mutual support between neighbors is maintained.”

The risk of poverty and social exclusion skyrockets in the “most emptied” Galicia.

Galicia: more inequality and exclusion derived from demographic desertification

Miguel Luque He will no longer be able to repay the small loan of his colleagues from the Boa Vida association to travel to Madrid and see his daughter. From time to time I needed to take a sleeping bag and disconnect from half-life in check against exclusion. He was only 67 years old. “It is the end result of poverty, a premature death,” says Pepa Vázquez, friend and co-founder with Miguel of that exit oenegé de Pontevedra which has been offering that particular for almost a decade microcredit system and fighting for the unemployed, sick, mothers and fathers, gypsies, exto-addicts, “normal and ordinary people, anonymous” to have a voice and hope. In January, 30 new users entered the group. “There is a very important bag of poor workers,” says Vázquez. “We live at a time when having two jobs does not give to pay a rent.”

When Boa Vida was born in 2012, between the first and double recession, unemployment in Galicia jumped the 20% barrier. The slow labor recovery – at this point the community suffers an unemployment level four points above the previous phase of expansion (11.7%) and has 100,000 fewer employees – exacerbates the problem of professional disqualification among those who have been away from the market for a long time and it is a clear factor “of deterioration of personal self-esteem”. It is openly recognized by the Xunta de Galicia in the review of the ‘Social Inclusion Strategy’ which launched in 2009 to try to contain the progress of poverty: “The experience of previous crises shows how the recovery has no immediate effects, so, in the short term, they will not reach all people in vulnerability situation “.

A beggar searches through the garbage of a container, in Pontevedra.

Even in the toughest moments of the economic breakdown, Galicia has been among the territories most affected by the growing inequality. The risk of poverty and social exclusion rate reached 18.95% in 2018, according to the Galician Statistics Institute (IGE). Even so, there are more than 330,000 Galicians with material deficiencies. Almost a third of families are unable to meet unforeseen expenses, two out of 10 cannot afford to maintain an adequate temperature at home and 41,000 accumulate arrears in monthly receipts. “Unemployment and precariousness with cyclical itineraries that alternate short periods of employment with others of unemployment generate poor and excluded workers and limit the possibilities of integration of many groups,” warn the experts in the latest ‘Foessa report’ on exclusion and social development , what alert that one in 10 employed in the community is in a situation of social exclusion and 3.6% in severe poverty.

The rise of participants in regional inclusion plans due to the scarcity of resources and long-term unemployment (39% of beneficiaries since 2009) adds the appearance of new profiles and vulnerability factors. “It is important to highlight the increase in incorporations that present territorial exclusion as the main problem,” says the Xunta. They are residents in areas, especially rural and dispersed, where “the difficulties of access to resources and the lack of vital opportunities do not allow to maintain living conditions comparable to those of those who live in the rest of the territory.” It’s a drama that bites its tail because This territorial exclusion, according to the Social Policy technicians of the Xunta, “worsens as a result of the demographic crisis”.

Abandoned rural house in the interior of the province of Pontevedra.

That is why the global poverty rate in Galicia hides many nuances when the zoom is activated. In the regions of O Carballiño and O Ribeiro, to the south of the province of Ourense, the risk of exclusion affects practically 30% of the inhabitants. A level very similar (28.4%) to that of its neighbors of To Limia, Celanova, Verín and Viana, all on the border with northern Portugal; as in the areas of Paradanta, Baixo Miño and O Condado (25.7%). In many of these small towns, epicenters of the harsh envy of the demographic winter in Galicia, the poverty rate increases even in the current stage of activity growth. “It is impossible to carry out a true policy against demographic decline without the economic revitalization of these areas,” says Xosé Cuns, director of the Galician Network against Poverty (EAPN-Galicia), which determines the double battle against demographic desertification and social exclusion to “establish adequate living conditions and opportunities for social and economic well-being”.

Barracas on Tànger Street with Meridiana Avenue.

Barcelona: Survive without light or heating, under threat of eviction … Or in barracks

It is night, children have dinner, but there is no light on. Only the TV. “At home we light up with TV, so we save light.” An image that speaks for a thousand words. It is the story of Ester, a single mother of two twins who, after being unemployed for more than five years, has “reduced expenses to a minimum” in order to continue paying the mortgage. “I could not afford to be evicted,” he says.

Cutting expenses has also led him to stop using heating at home. “We go with blankets, and I’m lucky that my children are hot,” he says with a nervous smile. The thermostat does not work. Have you thought about fixing it? “And how do I pay the mortgage? I prefer it to be damaged; that way we save money,” he replies.

Paloma, however, after being unemployed, could not bear the price of housing and did face eviction. “My rent was raised, I was unemployed and had no money to pay.” Remember the “agony” of court orders. A reality that in the last 13 years have had to face more than 71,000 families in Spain. “I’m lucky that being a mother alone I was able to access a social rental apartment, we didn’t stay on the street,” he says. Although heating and light is also a “luxury” for her. Even the food. “Sometimes we buy salmon, but usually my children eat fish thanks to the canned cans,” he explains.

“Sometimes we eat salmon, but usually my children eat fish thanks to the canned cans” | “I’m lucky that being a mother alone I was able to access a social rental apartment, we didn’t stay on the street”

One lives in Carmel, the other in Sant Martí. Both, who agreed at the meeting with the UN rapporteur to expose the situation in Catalonia, reside in two of the most depressed neighborhoods of Barcelona. But they also share another reality, that of being single mothers. This is, in fact, one of the groups with the highest poverty rate in Catalonia. One in five Catalans is at risk of poverty. In families with two adults, the risk of exclusion affects one in four, but in the case of single mothers, the percentage rises to half of them.

“The problem is that we cannot accept many jobs,” they explain. The reason, who will take care of the children? Who will go to look for them at school? “I don’t have anyone who can help me, and with a babysitter we screw up,” Paloma says. Ester no longer dreams of returning to the world of telemarketers, but she has not been able to opt for a supermarket cashier either. “With that schedule it was impossible,” he says. His daily struggle is to be able to pay electricity bills, children’s books, extracurriculars or summer ‘casals’ so that your children have the same opportunities as others.

Rafael, on the other hand, had no choice for much. His drug addiction pushed him to 13 years living in the street of Barcelona. “I would have to be dead, I don’t know how I’ve endured so many years,” he says. His home was the street, the parking lots and, when he was lucky, the squatter houses. “People who are pricked up are playing life,” he explains. There are too many homes that are counted in the metropolitan area where the meter room hides wooden clamps that connect light wires, so as not to have to pay them. A latent risk that, for the moment, no administration knows very well how to deal with.

Another reality, much more unhealthy, is that more than 885 people live, of which 200 children, in the shantytown Barcelona. Some puncture the light in the ships they occupy. Others do not have that. This is the case of Mohamed, a young Senegalese who since last summer has been living in a settlement on Tangier Street, in the Poblenou neighborhood. There is no light, there is no water, but there is life. A precarious, infamous life, full of misery and debris. “I don’t want it even for my worst enemy,” says the Senegalese. At dinner time, take the bike and Glovo’s backpack. “To work”.

An image of the Cañada Real de Madrid.

La Cañada Real (Madrid): more than 100 football fields full of junk, drugs and exclusion

Between six and seven in the afternoon the central street of the Sector VI of the Cañada Real Galiana as if it were, in the past, the promenade of a provincial capital, only that instead of carriages, cars of drug addicts come, the ‘kundos’, and instead of starch scavengers they bring walkers over their tracksuits and sweaty anoraks .

They also walk in a quick trot, on the sides and in a hurry, because they come in search of their dose.

Every afternoon, a water leak turns the street into a ravine, hiding huge and changing potholes capable of stopping a police van if it were to appear. The flanks, which are not sidewalks, are lit with bonfires lit in metal barrels, and behind each fire, at five euros the pinch, Gypsy narcos sell heroin, cocaine and raw (mixture of both without refining) for smoking.

But this section of the Real Madrid ravine is not the one visited by the UN special rapporteur for poverty and human rights to document his hard report on Spain. Some who live here are not poor. The trapicehadores park audis at the door of the shack, guarded by the machacas, who run errands for a peak a day.

Cañada Real – Madrid: Rubble, junkies and hope

Alston went to other desolate sectors of the Canada, such as The chicken coop, where Romanian zingaros are crowded in the mornings in Madrid scattered the trucks of organized begging; and saw the waterless shacks of the alleyways that give to the old cattle route, but not this infernal corner of Spain, a hill of rubble and flying plastics next to the metanizadora plant of the Valdemingómez landfill.

There are three neighborhoods in a single true glen. In addition to the S-VI, the first one that began to be built in the 40s, with Spanish shakers in eternal waiting for papers for their plots; and another second in which pawns, formwork and other Moroccan masons have planted their small farmhouses, with their hands and material left over from the works; They know the trade.

In 14 kilometers of Canada, 107 hectares of town, a neighborhood of 7,000 Spaniards and immigrants of four nationalities they try to float, a good part based on dignity, in an ocean of rubble dotted with islands of garbage that occasionally go into combustion emitting black smoke.

“I do not know what the schedule of the socio-community center is, what I do know is where there is bad coca and where good coca,” jokes Carlos, the Cañada lottery, without administration or permission or any prize to his credit, only his wisdom of Ludopath veteran.

“I don’t know what the community center’s schedule is, what I do know is where there is bad coca and where good coca is,” jokes Carlos

The center – literally reborn from its ashes, as it burned because of the spark of an illegal hitch on a lamppost – is today a complex of veneer and wood agglomerate in which women gather, debate the neighbors’ meetings, advises the Red Cross and rehearses a small children’s orchestra.

Mothers with hijabs strive around the school nearby public school Mario Benedetti, back home to eat a diet of market vegetables, eggs and chicken; There is no fish or veal on the menu, and there is a lot of industrial sweetness, “Bun” calls it Abdelaziz, neighbor and unemployed palette.

3,000 children live there. In the courtyards of the cabbages of Rivas, Vallecas and Vicálvaro, the stigma of being from the Cañada weighs on them. 40% are gypsies, and in a small but growing portion future adults benefit, as the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation and other organizations save what they can from dropout and low self-esteem.

In the absence of trees and gardens, the most standing neighbors have filled the walls, rebelling against sadness. The graffiti artists of Boa Mistura have helped them. The verses of the song ‘The soul has no color’ parade written by kilometers of walls, by Antonio Carmona: “I am of flesh, I am not of iron, I am heart …” Now, the neighborhood is determined to “get come Correos “, says Cristina Cañada, coordinator of the Al Shorok association. It would be a triumph in a neighborhood without a bus and miles from the nearest pharmacy.

“Cañada Real is the fruit of an indecency, the result of looking the other way for decades,” he says Agustín Rodríguez, pastor of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a temple of Sector VI surrounded by tents where the yonkis spend the night. The priest summarizes the contrast of this neighborhood: “Here an irregular situation was created that has its share of light, because every irregular situation can show the most amazing capabilities of the human being.”

Among others, the solidarity affection with which Mohamed, 72, 30 in the glen, welcomed his countryman Abdelaziz, 34, when he lost the house in the earthquake of Alhucemas (2004) and he had to come to Madrid. “Everything is fine here, like brothers,” says the old man. Any neighbor will say that “everything is fine” to the stranger, as long as he does not attract the digger who throws shacks.

The minimum insertion income (RMI, “the remi” the neighbors call their 400 euros) it rains on the town, but so scarcely that the 18-year-old gypsy woman from Dolores Martín, mother of a huge-looking baby, recounts: “From the account of the I buy for food I take away a little money and throw it in a pot. It’s for the child’s milk, you know? ” Eighteen and a half euros costs Almirón’s boat for a week, and it does not arrive with the grandmother’s pension.

And yet, there is in that glen who conforms. An old man arrives at a pile of garbage with a carriage tied to a bicycle. It is Romanian. Search through the boxes, next to a fire. It takes a punctured motorcycle camera. From a bag that he carries behind, of those hypermarket recyclables, the hoof of a ham bone stands out; Peeled, of course.

– How are you doing, sir?

– Well: here you eat; in Romania, no.

Here you eat. At the top of the hill of Sector VI, a barracks attached to the church houses a “damage reduction center” of the Community of Madrid for drug addicts. “There they are those who will never leave it. At least, reduce the damage,” says Teresa, nun Carmelita Vedruna, of the Catalan order who was born in Vic, and who, with Zulema, daughter of Charity and Isabel, of The Company of Mary (in Catalunya, Lestonnac) every day gives coffee, yogurt, conversation and the possibility of a shower to drug addicts around the temple. The three call them “the neighbors”, never junkies.

With the legs loose from benzodiazepines, some drug addicts approach a van in Madrid, where doctors and nurses give them clean syringes and substitute medication. “The good thing about this job is that you get rich,” jokes one of them.

Next, the NGO volunteer Positive Madrid Steven Bany It helps in the screening of possible patients with AIDS and hepatitis C. Impasible, summarizes the drug cycle in the neighborhood: “This is a place of passage: here people come, settle and die.”

Seville: illiteracy and return to the middle ages in the poorest neighborhoods of Spain

The great avenue that circles Seville on the east marks the map as a terrible scar. On one side, one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in the city, with modern shopping centers, hotels and football stadiums of bright red glitter. On the other, the cracked facade of modest four-story blocks that gives way to La Candelaria, Madre de Dios and Los Pajaritos, or Los Tres Barrios, the poorest area of ​​Spain according to all statistical indexes and that has drawn the attention of the UN rapporteur, for homelessness and exclusion situation in which its inhabitants live. “This is a lot worse than the South Polygon (the famous Three Thousand Homes) because there at least the houses are newer and better than here, “he says Fernando Armas, a member of the neighborhood’s civic platform. Something fails when the aspiration is to even have the habitable conditions of one the mythical neighborhoods of marginality.

Many neighbors try to avoid that comparison. But the data is stubborn and throws up the bleeding reality that both areas bring together, as Alston could see on the ground. According to the latest INE report (2017), Los Pajaritos lead the ranking of the poorest neighborhoods in Spain, with an average income per household of 12,307 euros per year. No indicator is released: unemployment exceeds 59%, and the rate of illiteracy and people without studies is around 16%, with 80% of high school students who do not complete their studies.

Los Pajaritos lead the ranking of the poorest neighborhoods in Spain. Unemployment exceeds 59% and the rate of illiteracy and people without studies is around 16%

Precariousness is attracted because it has no place in other places, and the percentage of immigration has increased in recent years to account for 10% of the total in an area where 58% of homes are in poor condition. Everyone who thrives, say the Senegalese, leaves as soon as he can, and those floors that are empty are occupied by drug clans They use it for trapicheos, adding the tension of the altercations and constant fights.

Los Pajaritos was born there in the middle of the twentieth century as a working-class and barren neighborhood on the then periphery of the city. The first place where many newcomers to Seville stopped to carve out a future: small apartments, many of them publicly owned, of little more than 30 square meters in blocks without an elevator, built without any planning and minimum infrastructure and where services Basics were weathered as you could. But after the closure in the 70s of the nearby factory, which employed many of the neighbors, the neighborhood began a spiral of degradation at a dizzying pace that still continues, because las sucesivas crisis se han ido cebando en sus cerca de 33.000 habitantes.

“Te das un paseo y encuentras viviendas con aguas fecales en los portales o los patios interiores, o incluso en la calle; hay enganches ilegales de luz; otras tienen tejados de uralita, algo ya prohibido; tampoco están preparadas para el verano, cuando en Sevilla se alcanzan más de 40 grados”, desgrana Armas sobre la falta de mantenimiento de los inmuebles. Hace unos años hubo un plan para rehabilitar los bloques más afectados, 524 viviendas, “pero hubo tantos problemas al derribar y volver a construir los dos primeros bloques, que de momento el proyecto se ha paralizado”. Un informe del Defensor del Pueblo andaluz apuntaba ya en el 2003 que solo cuatro de los bloques de Tres Barrios disponían de ascensor, por lo que el resto eran cárceles en vida para cientos de ancianos que no podía salir a la calle sin ayuda. “Podemos ayudar a bajar a 30 o 40 mayores, pero no a tantos”, lamenta Pedro Ríos, secretario general de Cáritas Sevilla, otra de las asociaciones que trabajan en la zona.

Si salieran, no tienen a donde acudir, porque en Los Pajaritos tampoco hay mucho que hacer. Ese mismo informe de hace casi dos décadas cuestionaba ya el pavimento y el deterioro de los espacios públicos, y desde entonces tampoco se ha avanzado mucho en equipamiento, ya que no hay centros cívicos, bibliotecas o centros de mayores pese a que estos son el grueso de los vecinos. Y los quioscos donde comprar algo de beber o unas pipas para pasar el rato en la calle, el pasatiempo favorito, se improvisan de forma clandestina en los bajos de algunos bloques.

Una de las cosas que más llamó la atención del relator de la ONU fue que precisamente es el tercer sector el que ha ocupado el papel protector de las administraciones públicas. Son las asociaciones quienes suplen la falta de políticas, en muchas ocasiones “a pulmón”, con sus propios recursos o con subvenciones mínimas. A ellas acuden los vecinos para poder tener tres comidas al día, también para meter algo en la despensa, ya sea alimento o productos de limpieza, o en busca de algún empleo. Los trabajos de los vecinos son precarios, con muchas horas y poco sueldo, por lo que el barrio subsiste básicamente con la economía sumergida. “Es una situación de la que no se puede salir”, lamentan ambos amargamente. “Hablas con los políticos y te transmiten sensación de impotencia”, añade Ruiz.

En Los Pajaritos no hay centros cívicos, bibliotecas o centros de mayores pese a que estos son el grueso de los vecinos

“El contraste es tremendo con el otro lado de la calle; somos una isla de pobreza, y a poco que te pasees por aquí, es terrible”, mantiene Armas, quien lamenta que en todo este tiempo las administraciones han actuado de forma puntual, pero sin estrategia y, por tanto, sin resultados. “No se trata solo de actuar con las viviendas, hace falta un plan integral, con medidas sociales, urbanísticas, educativas, de empleo…”, demandan.

El relator de la ONU en su visita a uno de los asentamientos de inmigrantes de Lepe.

Huelva: los campos de chabolas que conmocionaron al representante de la ONU

La próspera industria agrícola que cerca el espacio natural de Doñana se sostiene en parte desde gigantes barrios obreros en las afueras de pueblos como Lepe, Lucena o Palos de la Frontera, donde se escuchan acentos diversos y las sillas se acumulan a las puertas de las casas esperando los ratos de tertulia al atardecer. Un paisaje habitual en las periferias de los núcleos económicos de cualquier punto del país, salvo por el detalle de que, aquí, las calles son de tierra y el plástico y el cartón toman el lugar de las paredes. “Ellos son los afortunados, porque al menos tienen un techo; peor es dormir en la calle solo con un cartón y una manta”, cuenta Lamine, maliense afincado desde hace años en Lepe. “Igual piensan que estamos a gusto en las chabolas -ironiza-, pero es que no tenemos otra opción”.

Los asentamientos de chabolas de Huelva han abochornado al relator de la ONU sobre la pobreza extrema, para quien las condiciones en las que viven, o malviven, cientos de inmigrantes son “simplemente inhumanas”, como ha plasmado en su informe. Menos diplomática se mostró Pilar Vizcaíno, directora de Cáritas Huelva, días antes, al no poder contener que “viven en condiciones de verdadera mierda”.

Lamine, que también vivió una temporada en esas chabolas, describe el panorama que pudo observar el representante de la ONU, ese que según Alston muchos españoles no reconocerían como parte de su país. La única luz viene de enganches a baterías, y el agua para asearse o limpiar está en una fuente a seis kilómetros de distancia. Los colchones se acumulan en diminutos espacios sin ventilación donde se almacenan las maletas con sus pertenencias en una esquina y una hornilla de gas en la otra. La clase privilegiada se ubica en pequeñas construcciones, estas sí de ladrillo, pero a cambio por las ventanas se cuela el frío y el agua. Ni hablar de baño donde asearse. En sus calles se reparten subsaharianos y marroquís, también centroeuropeos y en los últimos tiempos se suman algunos españoles. Casi todos varones, aunque también empiezan a aparecer mujeres.

Campamento de chabolas en Lepe.

“Son trabajadores, no animales, y simplemente quieren, al terminar su jornada laboral, poder tener un sitio donde darse una ducha caliente, cenar algo viendo la televisión y meterse en la cama para volver a trabajar al día siguiente”, explica Amadou, uno de los portavoces del Colectivo de Trabajadores Africanos. La asociación se gestó a finales del pasado mes de octubre, tras el devastador incendio que acabó con ‘La Urba’, el mayor asentamiento chabolista de Lepe. No quedó nada, y el terreno fue vallado para impedir que volvieran a instalarse allí. “Ahora, cuando yo salgo con el camión por las noches, se me saltan las lágrimas, porque los veo a todos escondidos en cualquier rincón intentando esquivar el frío”, prosigue Amadou.

Tras ese desastre, los inmigrantes alzaron la voz para poner luz sobre una incómoda realidad: no reclaman casa gratis; están dispuestos a pagarla porque tienen dinero, algunos ganan incluso el salario mínimo, y sostienen la industria agrícola. But los mismos a los que enriquecen no les quieren alquilar las viviendas. En cuanto detectan el acento africano, explican, ya no hay casa disponible. Y tampoco encuentran amparo en las administraciones públicas.

Interior de una de las chabolas de Lepe

Los asentamientos chabolistas de inmigrantes temporeros comenzaron a surgir a finales del siglo pasado. Lepe, y toda la comarca onubense, empezó a prosperar gracias al cultivo de la fresa y más tarde de los frutos rojos. Un trabajo que requiere una habilidad manual y delicadeza que no suple la maquinaria agrícola, y muchos vecinos no estaban dispuestos a jornadas de sol a sol para ganar modestos sueldos. Primero llegaron las mujeres centroeuropeas, pero el rumor de que había trabajo, legal o ilegal, llegó a los inmigrantes africanos. Y mientras ellas se asentaban y se casaban con los nativos, ellos eran vistos con recelo. Tanto que, como alertaban los sindicatos ya por entonces, era imposible que lograran alquilar siquiera una habitación.

Esa dificultad, unida a la escasez de vivienda en la zona, provocó que empezaran a vivir hacinados y, más tarde, directamente en chabolas. “Al principio hubo unos módulos, pero se los llevaron y no nos quedó nada”, rememora Amadou. Los asentamientos se repiten por todos los núcleos agrícolas de Huelva. Las entidades sociales que trabajan en la zona estiman que en la treintena de campamentos se reparte una población estable cercana a las 700 personas, aunque las cifras se disparan en los momentos punta de las campañas agrícolas de la fresa o los frutos rojos y, según el Colectivo de Trabajadores Africanos, superarían las 6.000 personas. Cáritas lo reduce a 2.000.

Juanma Breva, responsable del área de exclusión social de Cáritas, concede que se trata de un tema “con muchas aristas” que “no es fácil de afrontar”, y que los muchos acaban aceptando estas situaciones impuestas como una etapa más de su ruta migratoria. Y mientras los empresarios se lavan las manos. “El problema de los asentamientos es un problema de la sociedad onubense y no se puede confundir con un mal vinculado a los empresarios agrícolas y mucho menos hacerles responsables de ello -dijeron en un comunicado tras la visita del relator-, las soluciones deben surgir de la participación de la sociedad onubense en su conjunto”. Los inmigrantes coinciden en que hace una falta voluntad política que no terminan de ver y que se plasma siquiera en la negativa a empadronarles. “Sin esa voluntad no se avanza nada, el problema es que todos vienen y hablan bien, pero luego hacen poco”, lamenta Lamine. “Sabemos que no es algo que se pueda resolver en un día, pero es que ya llevamos 20 años”, zanja Amadou.

Una imagen de la barriada de Los Colorines en Badajoz

Villafranca de los Barros (Extremadura): la España olvidada

No fue la visita más impactante que tuvo en territorio español, pero las impresiones que a bote pronto le dejaron a Philip Alston las desigualdades que se vivían en Extremadura se acercaron muy mucho a las conclusiones iniciales que el propio relator sobre extrema pobreza de Naciones Unidas detalló hace unos días tras su visita a España.

Extremadura, región olvidada para muchos, sí fue un botón de muestra muy real en la profunda reflexión realizada por Alston sobre que habría españoles que no reconocerían parte de su territorio en algunas fotos. En su visita exprés, al relator de la ONU le dio tiempo de charlar con voluntarios de distintas Cáritas Parroquiales de la diócesis de Mérida-Badajoz en Villafranca de los Barros, a conocer la vulnerabilidad de personas desfavorecidas en Mérida y a pasear fugazmente por algunos barrios deprimidos de Badajoz, entre ellos los famosos Colorines.

Ambiente vecinal en Los Colorines.

´Sentados en torno a una mesa de madera, Alston escuchó atentamente a los voluntarios de Cáritas en Villafranca de los Barros y sus vivencias particulares en cada uno de los municipios. En el habla, en la templanza de las vivencias y en la serenidad de las palabras, Alston entendió que reivindicaban más atención que recursos.

“Las circunstancias que hay en Extremadura nos obligan, en muchas ocasiones, a tener que irnos fuera para poder trabajar“, decían algunos de los participantes en el encuentro. Especialmente crítica es la situación de los agricultores, cada vez con menos margen para poder dedicarse a esta milenaria tradición en la zona. El relator de la ONU conoció de primera mano el problema tan candente que sufre el campo extremeño con la guerra de precios y vio la desesperación de muchos agricultores cuyos beneficios apenas les sirven para vivir al día.

La particularidad del mundo rural que tanto marca a la región extremeña también fue objeto de debate. Las personas mayores se topan con muchos problemas de soledad y aislamiento de los grandes recursos que se focalizan en grandes núcleos urbanos. La falta de atención médica, la escasez de ambulancia o una red de transportes muy maltratada con la negativa de la alta velocidad.

David Tobaja, técnico del Área de Inclusión Social en el Centro de Acogida Padre Cristóbal de Mérida, fue gráfico al describir que “Alston, más que hablar, estuvo muy pendiente de cada una de las intervenciones. Escuchó cada una de las inquietudes y problemas diarios y nos agradeció paulatinamente todas las aportaciones. Dijo también que el fin de la pobreza es una decisión política, que recursos hay, pero que no se utilizan bien”.

El relator de la ONU conoció de primera mano el problema tan candente que sufre el campo extremeño con la guerra de precios y vio la desesperación de muchos agricultores

A su paso por Mérida, Alston se encontró con la Red de entidades extremeñas del tercer sector que trabajan por la inclusión social de personas vulnerables. “Se preocupó mucho por el tema de la pobreza infantil y, muy especialmente, por el tema de la vivienda. Dijo no entender cómo habiendo un parque de viviendas públicas tan amplio, había tantos problemas de personas en riesgo de exclusión social para acceder a una de estas viviendas”, dice Tobaja. Ese tema impactó a Alston, que ya sobre el terreno consideró que esto es algo que debe empezar a gestionarse de otra manera. Cogió bolígrafo en mano y empezó a anotar.

En sus pocas intervenciones, Alston quiso dejar muy claro que su informe es uno de entre medio millón que llegará a las manos de las administraciones, “aunque este, como es de la ONU, igual se lo leen”, explicó uno de los participantes en el encuentro de Mérida.

El tema de las prestaciones sociales también le interesó mucho. Durante su paso por Extremadura, había conversado con un joven que le había comentado que no le interesaban mucho las prestaciones sociales, sino querer trabajar, una reflexión que llevó a Alston al inicio de sus conclusiones en Extremadura y el hecho de ser una tierra olvidada carente de las oportunidades que tanto reclama su población. Fue en ese momento cuando también emanó esa idea de haber dos Españas, una que se vende al exterior y otra mucho más desconocida que podría resultar casi irreconocible para los propios españoles. La inmigración y la regularización de documentos de las personas extranjeras también fue un tema importante a debatir, ya que Extremadura es una tierra que recibe a mucha gente de fuera para trabajar en las campañas frutícolas. También sobre los problemas de convivencia con personas de otros países o etnias, un tema que no le dejó indiferente.

Antes de marcharse de Extremadura, Alston reconoció que el informe siempre ayuda a poner un granito de arena más y se comprometió a recoger en el mismo todas las problemáticas. Al relator sobre extrema pobreza de Naciones Unidas le quedó bastante claro que Extremadura es una región con recursos, con gente que tiene ganas de hacer cosas, pero con mucho abandono de aquellos que todavía tienen que tender puentes más largos y sólidos.

Un reportaje de…En la elaboración de este reportaje han participado los siguientes periodistas de cabeceras de Prensa Ibérica : Elisenda Colell y Juan José Fernández (El Periódico de Catalunya), en los textos introductorios, de Barcelona y de la Cañada Real; Julia Camacho, en los relatos de Sevilla y Lepe (El Periódico de Catalunya); Julio Pérez (Faro de Vigo), en el de Galicia; Enrique Carballo (La Opinión de A Coruña) y Rodrigo Morán (El Periódico Extremadura). Fotos de: José Luis Roca, Joan Mateu Parra, Jorge Guerrero (AFP), Juan Luis Rod, Marta G. Punto Brea y Víctor Echave.


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