Inditex and the Comillas Pontifical University create the Chair of Refugees and Forced Migrants

The Chairman of Inditex, Pablo Isla, and the Chancellor of Comillas Pontifical University ICAI-ICADE, Julio L. Martínez, have today signed a collaboration agreement governing the creation of the Chair of Refugees and Forced Migrants. The Chair will provide support for collaboration programmes between the University and social organizations in this sector. It will also support academic research in the sphere of migration, boost the application of these studies to direct care and work on the ground involving refugees and migrants, and seek to publicise the reality of this phenomenon with the aim of contributing to raising awareness in society.

Thanks to this Chair, which has an eminently practical and interdisciplinary purpose, a research agenda will be developed will have the dual purpose of carrying out a diagnosis of the international migration situation and designing programmes and projects for taking action in this area, with particular attention to the processes of incorporation, hosting and integration of refugees into Spanish and European societies.

Two doctoral grants and eight grants for professional internships

The Chair will award two doctoral training grants to research staff whose projects promote knowledge and social innovation in the sphere of migration, as well as eight grants to fund professional internships lasting 6 to 12 months in national and international organizations working directly with refugees on the ground.

The priority spheres of work for these professional internships, which are targeted at postgraduates specialising in cooperation and migration, include the following:

  • Hosting and social integration of refugees in Spain
  • Refugee hosting programme of the Conference of Spanish University Chancellors (Conferencia de Rectores de Universidades Españolas, CRUE)
  • Work in refugee camps or regional offices

Moreover, as part of actions to boost hosting and social integration processes involving asylum seekers and refugees, four immersion language and Spanish learning courses will be imparted by the University's own Languages Institute (Instituto de Idiomas).

Additionally, with a view to contributing to raising awareness of this situation in society, various dissemination activities will take place in the form of workshops and campaigns developed in collaboration with other organizations such as the Fundación Entreculturas, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the Jesuit Migrant Service (JMS).

The Chair also plans to create an annual prize to recognize actions in the care of refugees and forced migrants.

The Chair Principal Investigator will be Cristina J. Gortázar, Professor of Public International Law, International Relations and European Union Law at the Comillas Pontifical University, where she also teaches Immigration and Asylum Law. Since 2000, Gortázar has been working as an expert representing Spain in the Odysseus Network (the Academic Network for Legal Studies on Immigration and Asylum in Europe), and since 2002 she has also held the title of Jean Monnet Chair of EU Immigration and Asylum Law.

Juan Iglesias, who will be the Director of the Chair, holds a PhD in Sociology from the Complutense University of Madrid and has been working as a Professor at the University of Comillas for more than 15 years. Throughout this time, Iglesias has taught at the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Comillas, where he has also lectured on Sociology and Migration. Iglesias also specialises in migration and development, second-generation migration and spheres of social integration.

The refugee crisis in Europe

The initiative to support the Chair of Refugees and Forced Migrants has been created as part of the action plan and set of programmes developed by Inditex since 2005 in collaboration with various NGOs and entities providing care to vulnerable groups. The creation of this Chair with the University of Comillas aims to contribute to improving the care given to forced migrants over the long term, beyond the extraordinary emergency programmes established by the company in various areas of Africa, Latin America and – in particular over the last year – in Europe.

In this respect, during 2015 Inditex donated more than 400,000 garments to humanitarian aid via UNHCR, LIFE for Relief and Development and the Red Cross in countries such as Greece, Austria, Iraq and Lebanon. As part of this framework, Inditex strengthened its collaboration with the projects initiated in 2013 to support MSF with humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugees currently residing in the Turkish province of Kilis. Specifically, Inditex has contributed funding to a medical centre providing primary care and psychological support, which is staffed by a specialised team of more than 40 experts. Similarly, this collaboration has made it possible to provide a continuous ambulance service to transport patients in a serious condition from Syria to Turkish hospitals. During 2015, for example, medical/humanitarian aid has been provided to more than 57,000 people.

Since the first agreement was signed in 2008, Inditex has contributed some €18 million to different MSF programmes.

Programmes in Africa and Latin America

In the same sphere, Inditex has collaborated with the Fundación Entreculturas since 2001, which has led to the implementation of projects in 24 countries of Africa and Latin America, directly benefiting more than 1 million people over the last 15 years.

The current Inditex–Fundación Entreculturas programme, designed to cover the three-year period from 2014 to 2016, focuses on two main lines of action: technical and vocational training, and training and care for vulnerable groups.

In particular, we might mention the Educating People, Generating Opportunities (EPGO) programme started in 2007, which focuses on caring for refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region. The programme implemented by the JRS currently provides care to more than 17,000 refugees in Chad, the Republic of the Congo, South Africa and Uganda. With the aim of promoting education in emergency situations and the social and employment integration of refugees in urban areas, the refugee camps themselves offer education for children, literacy for women, and vocational training courses. Vocational training is offered to urban refugees in major cities along with language training, medical care and legal support with a view to fomenting social integration.

In Latin America, Inditex renewed its collaboration with Fundación Entreculturas and the JRS in 2015 in order to provide support to victims of the Colombian conflict. This programme, which began in 2009, offers opportunities to the most vulnerable border communities. Almost 6,000 refugees and internally displaced persons are provided access to education, psychological and legal support in areas of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela as part of the programme, which also offers technical training and training on food safety.

Support for other Chairs

The Inditex Chair of Refugees and Forced Migrants will be added to the list of other academic postgraduate initiatives implemented by the company, such as the Inditex Chair of Social Responsibility at the University of A Coruña, the Inditex Chair of Spanish Language and Culture at the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh) and the Chair of Disability and Employability of the Miguel Hernández University of Elche.

The first of these, based at the University of A Coruña, has the primary objective of providing a space for community reflection, academic training and applied research on the social responsibility of public authorities and organizations, private enterprises and NGOs.

The University of Dhaka programme, which is the result of an agreement signed between Inditex and the universities of Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña and Dhaka, has the purpose of promoting Spanish language and culture in Bangladesh and encouraging scientific production and exchange, as well as promoting the movement of students and teachers between the university institutions.

The Chair of Disability and Employability of the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, created in 2015, is a university–business initiative in collaboration with the Alicante Association for People with Mental Disabilities (Asociación pro discapacitados psíquicos de Alicante, APSA) and the university, which aims to promote and incentivise research, training and the exchange of results of studies in the sphere of disability.