Far from home and family: the difficult Christmas of migrants in a settlement

Far from the hustle and bustle of the centers of many cities and the brilliance of Christmas lighting, the migrants who live in the settlements of Almería ‘celebrate’ these special days as they can, with the difficulties typical of converted shanties in homes among plastics.

The thousands of people who cross the sea every year in a boat and end up in shanty towns like those in the municipality of Níjar offer a very different picture from what the streets and houses of the rest of Spain show during Christmas.

These days are synonymous with reunions with family and friends, with copious meals shared while Christmas carols resonate… At least for those who have not been forced to emigrate, having to live far away from their countries of origin in search of a better future.

They try to make pineapple

They live in settlements such as El Hoyo, Los Nietos 10 and El Cruce or La Pared, distributed along one of the main centers of intensive greenhouse agriculture in Almería and in which a majority of Muslims predominate compared to a number much fewer Christians, mainly from sub-Saharan countries.

They live in rehabilitated farmhouses or houses built with pallets, plastics and agricultural remains to be as close as possible to the greenhouses in which they work.

At these points it is almost impossible to find elements that make it evident that holidays are approaching, when just a few minutes away the luminous decorations are already shining at night.

“In the settlements, those who are there at the end get together among themselves, they try to spend some fairly decent nights, although, in the end, they do not spend them with their family, nor in a decent environment. They get through it as best they can,” Alicia Guirado, a technician in the Immigrant Department of the Almería Red Cross, told EFE.

With all these limitations, “in order not to spend these holidays alone, which is when you miss your family and people close to you the most, they try to make a family here, get together,” he adds.

Volunteers bring them a more special meal

Coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the settlements is good and Christmas also makes its way among the faithful of Islam, even if it is thanks to the intervention of volunteers and groups.

During these days, organizations like the Red Cross try to offer as many immigrants as possible, whether they celebrate Christmas or not, “a more special meal,” such as the seafood paella that a group of volunteers distributed this week in different shanty towns, such as El Hole.

It is not the only thing that is done to share these days of good feelings, because children who cannot write their letter to the Three Wise Men also reside in substandard housing in the hope of receiving what they most desire.

Toy distribution

“At this Christmas time, we also distribute toys for small children, with the Red Cross Youth department,” explains Diego López, one of the volunteers of this entity while handing out some of the games, dolls and clothes that they have prepared for the children. most needy minors.

Malika is a North African who has been in Níjar for three decades, and lives with her “three birds, really two birds and a bird,” as she affectionately calls her children. Next to her is her eldest, 15 years old, who has not gone to class like her brothers when he is sick.

Although at that moment there are no toys left for his age, the boy chooses for his little brothers: “That car, that one that my brother surely likes,” he says while pointing to a plastic SUV. “This game is very good and several people can play,” Diego immediately tells him, to which the teenager responds: “Yes, you’ll like that one too.”

Malika also asks for a small tricycle for her niece. And before saying goodbye, she invites the Red Cross volunteers to come into her house for tea, giving rise to the spirit of Christmas, whether Muslim or Christian.

By Main Saeed Ahmed Khan