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Mission with migrants

M eventThursday, 11 August 2022

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The Iberian Peninsula, due to its geographical situation and during its long history spanning many centuries, has always been a land of passage and habitation for different peoples. From prehistoric times to the present day, it has been the hinge between two continents, Europe, and Africa, as well as the obligatory passage through the Strait of Gibraltar, between West-East and North-South for trade, exchanges, discoveries and the transfer of culture and all kinds of goods through the ancient Mare Nostrum of the Romans.

Prehistoric man, coming from Africa, left the vestiges of their cultures spread out all over the Peninsula, later the Iberians, Celts, Hebrews, Romans, Germans, Visigoths, Berbers, Syrians, Arabs, and people from the North, settled on this soil, giving different and varied names to this land: Iberia, Sefarad, Hispania, Al-Andalus, the Christian Kingdoms, Counties and Lordships and finally Spain.  The Iberian Peninsula, due to these circumstances and its geographical location, has an unprecedented natural, biological, human, cultural, linguistic, and spiritual wealth.

The settlement of these peoples on this soil for centuries, marked the diverse cultures and civilization that flourished in art, languages, customs, family models and religions that have survived to the present day.

The Iberian Peninsula is and has always been a land of contrasts in every sense. The migration and movement of peoples has been a constant reality since ancient times. Migratory movements to America and vice versa since the 15th century, Asia, Africa and Oceania in the following centuries and up to the 21st century are due to a wide variety of reasons: political, ideological, adventure, economic, religious, research, study, etc.

Almost all the regions of Spain have experienced migratory movements within and outside the country. From the 19th century to the present day, Galicia, Asturias, and the Basque Country have experienced migration to America and the return of those who made their fortune ("making the Americas") and, although circumstances have changed over the years, in the 1950s migration was directed towards Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, etc. in search of work. Within the Peninsula, Andalusia and Extremadura experienced a strong migratory movement towards Catalonia, Madrid, the Basque Country, etc.



The one hundred and fifty-six years of Assumption’s presence in Spain have been marked by multiculturalism and internationality. The first Sisters who arrived in Malaga in 1865 were foreigners. From the beginning, their work and their presence have been linked to the universality of the Church in all the places where the Assumption has been and continues to be present.

In this century and a half of presence, its communities, insertions, and schools have diversified and cater to multiple realities, while remaining faithful to its international multicultural vocation, with a special attention to migrants given the current situation of society.

A few shared experiences bear witness to this.


GIJÓN, coastal city in the north of Spain, located in Asturias, a mountainous region and cradle of Spain as the hymn of Our Lady of Covadonga, patron saint of Asturias, says.

Blessed is the Queen of our mountain 

Whose throne is the cradle of Spain...

In her is the soul of the Spanish people.

This city has had an Assumption school since 1907, a school that, following Saint Marie Eugenie in its desire for social commitment, has taken care of her being present in the peripheral neighborhoods.

Currently, in the neighborhood of Contrueces, we have a socio-educational project "Enredando", a scholarship project for primary school children and their families risking exclusion.

About 30% of the population of Gijon are foreigners. In "Enredando" 68% of the children are migrants or children of migrants, although the Center was not originally created as a Center for migrants. It is run almost entirely by volunteers of very different ages and life situations. The work done is well appreciated by families and the schools.

We work in collaboration with the Principality of Asturias, the City Council of Gijon, former pupils and social agents and counsellors from the schools in the neighborhood.


TEGUESTE, municipality in the north of the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). The Assumption has been in the Canary Islands since 1903. The school in Santa Cruz de Tenerife was eventually closed in 1978.

The house in Tegueste was built in 1943 and since then, all kinds of activities have been carried out there: retreats, catechesis, ECCA radio, religion classes in the school, support, and reception of university students from the nearby University of La Laguna.

Today, the Welcome Residence that was built on the estate in 1982 has been handed over to the "Asociación Solidaria Mundo Nuevo", which manages the Center called "CAI-MENA Marea". The Center takes in children who have ventured into early emancipation in search of a better future. The realities that these children have to go through to reach the Canary Islands and the Center happen in extreme circumstances, which is why they could be considered courageous They are unaccompanied migrant minors, who leave their countries in Africa and risk their lives in search of a better future, in often inhumane conditions.

One of the visions of the Association is to accept others’ differences: their customs, religious beliefs, color, gender and to be able to live harmoniously. Another of its function is the integral formation of the children, both in school and at home, helping them focus on a future career, thus making the young person a person prepared in all aspects of life so that they can help their own people.

The Center's daily task is to divide the children into different work committees, in which the young people are responsible for the upkeep of the home, allowing them to socialize with each other and learn skills that will help them in the future.

Promoting human, ethical, and moral values is key to improving the quality of life of both the children who come to us wounded by war, poverty, marginalization, the conditions in which they arrived in the Canary Islands, and the families they left behind. But above all, it wants to keep them from forgetting the initial reason for which they decided to emigrate, risking everything in the process.

It is about their learning how to treat those who are different from them with the respect and affection they deserve as human beings.

The Church Organizations working on the question of migration in the Nivariense Diocese (Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro) are concerned about the situation of the violation of rights that so many migrants, arriving on the coast of the islands, have been experiencing in recent months. The Canary Islands cannot become a wall of systematic blockade and detention of the people who arrive, thus preventing their transfer to other parts of Spain or Europe.

The creation of large camps as temporary care centers for foreigners is questionable because the large number of people cannot guarantee their being attended to with dignity. They are enclosures that do not facilitate integration in the immediate environment in which they find themselves.

We also note the very serious problem of minors with limited accommodation based on the available resources and the immediate future they face: lack of protection hopelessness, with nothing to do and nowhere to stay.

It is impossible to forget the tragedy of the death of so many people on this Canary Islands migratory route, fleeing hunger, pain, war, pursuing their dreams for a better life, as well as the suffering of their families who often do not know the fate of their loved ones.


SANTA ISABEL: In 1876, at the express wish of King Alfonso XII, the Assumption arrived at the Royal School of Santa Isabel in Madrid. The evolution of the school, in these one hundred and forty-five years of existence, has been enormous and today it is immersed in a neighborhood in which the presence of immigrants is the majority.

Faced with the growing reality of immigration, in 2003 the Autonomous Community of Madrid created the “Aulas de Enlace” as an experimental initiative within the "Welcome Schools" program. Its aim was to incorporate immigrant pupils into the Spanish educational system under the best possible conditions.

The Real Colegio de Santa Isabel was one of the first Catholic schools in Madrid to offer a place and sign agreements with the administration to provide said halls.

Within the hallmarks of the Assumption's identity, the values that encourage us as a school are based on those that Marie Eugenie passed on to us. The school has been characterized by its openness to the neighborhood, to the demands of the environment and by its attention to the diverse needs of its pupils and families. We currently have one hundred and seventy-nine foreign students with thirty-three different nationalities, mainly from China and Bangladesh.

The “Enlace halls” are an ideal way to promote values of solidarity, respect and effort, in our constant search to transform our society through the values of the Gospel. 

Along with language learning, we consider it essential to encourage the development of the students' personal, cultural, and social identity and the knowledge and respect for other identities, cultures, and religions.

Over the years, through this educational measure at the Real Colegio de Santa Isabel, we have been paying special attention to the integration into the school and social environment of foreign pupils who have recently arrived in Madrid from their countries of origin and who do not know the Spanish language, with special care given to their reception.

Below we share with you the testimony of Syrian students:

"We thought we were going to experience here the same discrimination that we did in the refugee camp from our own fellow believers because Spain is a Catholic country, but we have felt welcomed and loved." They drew a cross with a heart and the word thank you.

The previous educational experience of these students, depending on their countries of origin, may have been irregular, since immigration generally occurs for economic reasons, or due to armed conflicts, adding to the lack of knowledge of the vehicular language, a curricular gap.

In these halls, the students range in age from 9 to 18 years. In the current academic year 2020-2021 we have a mixed “Aula de Enlace” for Primary and Secondary Education with nine students: one from Portugal, three from Iraq, three from Bangladesh and two from the United States.


SAN SEBASTIÁN, a stately town in a privileged natural setting, is located very close to the border with France, in the north of Spain. The Assumption arrived here in 1882 and Marie Eugenie herself chose the Alto de Mira-Cruz to build a monastic building in the Gothic style, very similar to the one built in Bordeaux.

The Assumption of Mira-Cruz was a girls' school with pupils from families of a high socio-economic level until a few decades ago (1980s). At a certain point it was decided to open the school to all, especially to families from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Today there is a very interesting mix of pupils, since the classes are made up of children from these high socio-cultural backgrounds and children of migrants from later generations. It is a very enriching mix!

90% of the students were born in San Sebastian, although only 10% of the families are native to the city. Therefore, the data can be somewhat misleading, and the reality is that the students have very different origins. This creates an interesting reality with completely different cultures and customs, which must be given a voice, acknowledged, accompanied, merged with the autochthonous peoples, respected, and made to feel proud of their places of origin and the place where they now live. They learn to respect what is different, to look for the best in each reality and are taught to live with all this without forgetting the roots and ways of life of each of the cultures.

We have families of more than thirty different nationalities, so multiculturalism and interculturalism in the school is a palpable reality. There is a real challenge regarding the integration processes of migrants that we try to resolve, instilling respect for the city's own culture and the rest of the cultures with which we coexist daily. We continuously work towards integration, with activities included in the Educational Project based on respect, which gives importance to the intercultural identity of the school.

Most of our classes are taught in Basque (the co-official language of the Basque Country). 90% of the school's families do not know the language, therefore, the task of integrating families and students into Basque society is a great challenge for us.

Currently, the school of Mira-Cruz is located in a low socio-cultural environment in relation to what San Sebastian is as one of the most expensive cities in Spain. The common concept is that people of San Sebastian live very well. There are many precious and economic natural resources in the environment and we are located in the province of Gipuzkoa, within the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC).  The BAC enjoys privileges, both in the field of education and socio-economics, which are different from other Spanish Autonomous Communities. The trajectory and privileges of Basque culture are historically determined by agreements made with the Spanish Government. This historical data is important to understand that the functioning and laws of the Basque surroundings are somewhat different from those of other Autonomous Communities, as we depend more on the Basque Government than on the Spanish Government.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Mertxe Aranguren Aguirre and Onintza Mokoroa González were asked to take part in an international initiative project on migrant JPICS. The aim is to gather what the educational community and the religious community are experiencing on the issue of the integration of migrants.

In San Sebastian there are no suburbs, although there are areas where migrants or migrant families with needs are concentrated. Some of these areas are located close to our school.

Many migrants in San Sebastian come with work contracts from their country of origin, others have the option of improving their situation quickly as it is a city that offers a lot of employment in different sectors, especially in the hotel and tourism industry.         

In the school we run more than twenty-three programs available to students, a large part of which are specifically aimed at migrants: Welcome, support and monitoring of the newly arrived student and school support, all programs related to immersion in Basque culture (language, customs etc.), cultural week, recycling and circular economy, agenda 21 and a star project is the work on the emotions, which is so important in this field of migration.

The Basque Country has a very dormant migrant cultural heritage, since many of our ancestors, as we have already said, were migrants (America, Europe) and many other ancestors were immigrants (areas of South-West Spain where the culture shock was very great). That is why we have a special sensitivity towards migrants. We live this out in a very natural way so that we may fully integrate it in the development of our work as teachers.



Carmen Morales ValverdeCristina Massó de ArizaEva Mª López AmiamaMertxe Aranguren AguirreOnintza Mokoroa GonzálezMagdalena Morales Valverde