All over the world, we are struggling to adapt to the ‘new normal’ brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a consortium with 25 project partners and 19 supporting partners in 10 European countries, we wanted to ask our stakeholders about the impact of this ‘new normal’ on the lives of immigrants and what it means in terms of local development.

‘New Normal in MATILDE Migration’ interview series continues with Gobierna de Aragon (Government of Aragon) from Spain.

Gobierna de Aragon’s objective is to ensure the protection of citizens in situations of social emergency and the commitment to an active social inclusion strategy. Natalia Salvo Casaús, Director General for Development Cooperation and Immigration of Government of Aragon answered our questions. For Casaús, life is much harder for migrants living in rural and mountainous areas of Aragon and the solution for a better future lies in fair redistribution of wealth, decent employment and social coexistence.

Could you please update us about the latest situation in Aragon regarding the COVID-19 pandemic?

Natalia Salvo Casaús: In Aragon, Spain, we have gone through a year of extreme difficulty, as a result of COVID-19, like the rest of European countries and many other countries in the world. The pandemic has shown the importance of public services and solidarity in order to face a public health crisis.

The first half of 2020 was very hard and today we still suffer from the effects of the pandemic. But the vaccination program, which began at the end of 2020 and will continue through 2021, is a source of hope for us.

As Government of Aragon, how has your work with migrants changed after the spread of COVID-19 and the following emergency measures?

N.S.C.: As General Directorate for Development Cooperation and Immigration of Government of Aragon, we have worked especially in two areas, which we considered them as priorities:  guaranteeing health care for all migrants living in Aragon and inform migrants about current developments regarding COVID-19 measures. To achieve this, we translated information coming from official sources into several languages and we carried out dissemination campaigns to deliver this information to refugees.

What are the common challenges faced by migrants and refugees living in Aragon in times of pandemic? How do they differ from the ones of the local population?

N.S.C.: The main challenges faced by migrants in Aragon now, a city that still suffers from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, are mainly unemployment, difficult living conditions and problems with access to public services.

As a society, we must also face the rise of racist and xenophobic hate speech, which disrupt our social coexistence. We must strive to guarantee respect and equality for all citizens.

What about the migrants who livie in urban areas? Do you recognize any positive or negative aspect of living in a rural and mountainous region?

N.S.C.: For migrants living in rural and mountainous areas of Aragon, life is much harder than for the migrants who live in urban areas. They are especially having difficulties with access to public services, to reach the need of housing, to livelihoods and to right to mobility. However, in any case, as the Government of Aragon, we are committed to guaranteeing equal opportunities for all people, regardless of where they live. 

Looking to the future, what long-term impact do you think the situation triggered by COVID-19 will have on the migrant population of Aragon?

N.S.C.: The medium and long-term impact of the COVID-19 on migrants will depend on how we decide to support them. We should emphasize the fair redistribution of wealth, decent employment and social coexistence for a better future.