When Syrian refugee Manar Almustafa, suffering from 90 percent burns on her body, escaped from her country two months ago, she first traveled to the Spanish North African exclave of Melilla. Now she will be moving to Barcelona on mainland Spain with her family to live and to receive essential medical care.
The 30 year old Syrian woman was injured after bombs fell near her home as part of the ongoing civil war in Syria. Now, according to the Interior Ministry, the Spanish government has agreed to grant her asylum.
When Almustafa first left Syria, she chose to stay with family members in Melilla, the Spanish North African exclave, rather than report to a local migrant center. Apparently this slowed down her asylum process, according to government sources.
She has now traveled, along with thirteen members of her family, from Melilla on a ship bound for Málaga on the southern coast of Spain. From there, the family will be collectively moved to Barcelona, where they will join other members of the same family.
As Melilla has no specialized burn unit at the local hospital, Almustafa will be receiving the correct medical care on arrival in Barcelona for the 90 percent burns on her body. The first thing she will do is to visit a specialist.
Almustafa thanked the Government of Spain, the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their help in her dire situation.
On arrival at the port of Málaga, Red Cross equipment was available to provide assistance to the Syrian woman who is suffering extreme pain.
Her brother commented about the boat trip from Melilla, saying, “The trip (eight hours by boat) was fun, but the problem was the pain,” mentioning that his sister has to constantly take pain medication.
Interior Ministry sources reported the transfer of the Syrian immigrant family, eight of whom – including the youngest daughter – are under the subsidiary protection regime, and the balance fall within the host program of the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security.
Almustafa initially sought asylum in Melilla on 8 November from the Syrian war and her request was accepted for filing by the Refugee Office on December 3.
In view of the “urgent” humanitarian situation of the applicant, the Home Office has made “great efforts to expedite this request”, which has been expressly recognized by the UNHCR, according to a statement of the Department of Interior.
In Spain, to receive refugee status it is necessary to prove that one is a victim in the country of origin of a personal and direct persecution under some of the grounds set out in the Geneva Convention. These include race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinions and gender subsidiary protection.
Refugee status is given to accommodate those people who cannot return to their country of origin because they risk being executed, tortured, suffering degrading treatment or being killed in a situation of widespread and indiscriminate violence, such as that existing in Syria today.
Almustafa, who lost her daughter and other family members after a bomb fell at her home in Homs, Syria, fled the war with other relatives. She personally suffered 90 percent burns to her body in the incident. The family travelled via different countries – including Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria – to Melilla and now will begin a new life in Catalonia, Spain after being granted refugee status and subsidiary protection.
By Anne Sewell