Integration in Madrid

Ana García is the program coordinator of Karibu Association, in which she has been working for eight years. Mainly she is in charge of volunteer coordination and projects. Although, according to her, ‘small association functions are shared by all the members and everybody ends up doing a bit of everything’. The Karibu association has been operating since 1991. They are a local association, they work firsthand with African emigrants who come here in Madrid. She told us that ‘the name of Karibu is a swahili word that means welcome. We try to give them a warm welcome and to make things easier by mainly supporting them in their integration.’

When we asked about the number of users who come to the center (compared to other years) Ana answered us that ‘the number of users has changed due to variations in   migration flows. Eight years ago there were a lot of users demanding help and now there are less newcomers and more people who are in transit to other European countries.’What remains, according to Ana, is the demand of humanitarian protection activities, it includes basic needs as food, clothes, health care for people who are excluded from public health and accommodation. ‘We have two lines of action, on one hand, humanitarian protection and on the other hand, supporting activities for integration.’

Karibu offers a lot of services. At its central office, they have a distribution service for food and clothing, with the collaboration of Food Bank, parishes, schools or private donations. At the moment, she tells us that, ‘there’s almost no food and when there is no food people stay at home.’ She also says that ‘when there is food people come to consult the lawyer, for work orientation, they often don’t have money to afford the transportation so they take advantage of the trip to do it all.’ In the same office they also have a ‘first reception service’ which looks after the newcomers. They make them a social file with their data and their needs and give them a Karibu ID card with access to all services available in Karibu or other associations. They also offer legal services and an area for management and administration.

Furthermore, they have a medical centre where they assist people who has been excluded from public health. A few months ago, the protocol of giving assistance to people with no health insurance card was accepted again. This complicates medical monitoring and sometimes special attention by specialists is limited. Common diseases are attended with no health insurance, what means that they have to cover the costs of medication. In 2012 a law that contemplates severe or chronic cases was established, but there continue to be some legal gaps. ‘Cases of people who need to be medicated their whole life are the most difficult ones’ She said. ‘For example, diabetic people. We have made some agreements with hospitals and administration so they can be assisted by public health systems. We can give them temporary care but not a lifelong treatment’.

Karibu has two formation centres. One of them is only for women, and the other one is for men, but women are also allowed there. In both of them they teach spanish and literacy, and in one of them they also teach basic informatics. This centres include a kindergarden so women with children can leave them there while they are in class. During the weekends it has extra occupational courses like kitchen assistant, food handling and labor risk prevention.

It also has four foster homes for people who need special protection. Two of them are for women, specially pregnant and single mothers. The others are for unaccompanied minors (or not recognized by the administration) etc.

Finally, they have a visitor project in the CIE (Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros) in Aluche, related to mediation and denounce. Every year they publish on their website a report collecting the data and the most vulnerable cases.

Recently, migration flows has decreased. ‘The reasons are not clear. It has relation with the situation in their countries of origin. Sub-Saharan Africa has more intracontinental migrations, contrary to what is usually thought because of the media. Most of African migrants move to more developed or stable African countries, only few of them come to Europe. I imagine the European crisis is also an important factor’.

When we asked her if the integration was good, Ana answered us that it depends on the case. There is a bit of everything. ‘For example, Latin-American migrants have a much easier integration. Because the migrant process is much faster. An Ecuadorian takes a plane and the next day he´s here. Then he will have bureaucratic obstacles and difficulties but for the African migrant the difficulties starts since he leaves his country. It may take months or even years until he arrives. Also language and cultural patterns are different. And once they are here, they have very few networks and only some may have a family member but they are the minority. In these cases, integration is more difficult, infinitely harder. Then they find many obstacles to find a job. They are segregated to the same sector, construction, kitchen work in hospitality. Yet there are few waiters. But gradually barriers are overcome. It is also because migratory processes are slow. 25 years ago Karibu was established because it was when Africans started arriving. Social changes occur very slowly. But step by step we are all together making progress.’

Adelia Pedreño Manresa, 6th June 2016



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