Milagros del Corral

Milagros del Corral
Photo: Fundación Biblioteca de Literatura Universal (BLU)

What does the term refugee mean to you?

A person who moves to another country to escape war, political persecution or natural disaster.

Is flight from poverty less legitimate than flight from war or political oppression?

Escape from poverty is understandable but, in my opinion, cannot be equated with escape from war or political oppression. I think he who moves to another country to escape poverty fits the concept of immigrants, which should not be confused with the refugee status.

And what about flight as a result of environmental problems?

It depends on the nature of the problem. It is legitimate in the case of a major natural disaster.

When does one cease to be a refugee?

When the reason for the escape no longer exists.

Is there a natural right to asylum?

It is an ethical right of humanity.

If yes: is this right unconditional, or can it be forfeited?

It may be forfeited when the refugee violates the law of the country of asylum or when carrying out criminal actions in that country.

Do you think that the number of refugees a society can absorb is limited?

Unlimited, if the asylum seekers comply with the above requirements.

Are there privileged refugees in your country, i.e. refugees that are more welcome than others? If yes: why?

Yes, Latin Americans, due to our common history and the proven experience of their easy adaptation to our country.

Do refugees in your country receive fair treatment?

Reasonably fair, although the mass arrivals of recent times are creating difficulties.

Would cuts in the social security system in your country be acceptable to you if they were to facilitate the absorption of more refugees?

Yes, if it comes to people who have acquired refugee status under the law in force.

What are the requirements for successful integration?

- on the part of the refugees?

It is fair to expect an attitude of gratitude from the refugees, and an effort to integrate into the society of the asylum country, learn the language and customs, without trying in any way to impose theirs.

- on the part of the citizens of the host country?

Citizens of the host country must show their solidarity and support to refugees and facilitate their integration teaching their children the importance of solidarity with people like us who have suffered so much. We can all be refugees one day, as history shows.

Do you know any refugees personally?


Do you actively support any refugees?

Since 2010 an Ecuadorian refugee has been working for me and I am even godmother to her daughter born here. The whole family is perfectly integrated.

How will the refugee situation in your country develop

a) over the next two years?
b) over the next two decades?

The number of refugees is likely to increase given the war situation in a growing number of countries from different continents and cultures, whose people legitimately escape and seek asylum. We live in an age of migration and we have to accept it. It is up to all countries living in peace to grant asylum to those who legitimately move to save their lives. Precisely for this reason I believe that the management of these migrations should be taken care of by the UN. Due to the aging of its population the orderly arrival of refugees and migrants, usually young people with children, suits our old Europe. However, Europe alone can never properly solve this serious situation, a situation which, if triggered, will threaten its own stability.

Can you imagine a world without refugees?

No. The world is laden with huge inequalities, serious natural disasters and multiple wars that will lead many human beings to choose to move to countries living in peace in order to save their lives. We live in a global world and this tremendous problem must be managed properly and globally, in order to keep refugee candidates from randomly choosing the country they want to go to, as this would lead to a disaster of unpredictable consequences.

If yes: what does it take?

Given the historical moment we live in I believe that a world without refugees is nowadays a utopia.

Have you or your family ever been refugee?


Do you think you will ever be a one?

- If yes: why?

I hope not, but it cannot be ruled out.

- How do you prepare yourself?

I follow, therefore, with great vigilance the evolution of this massive phenomenon and the proposed solutions.

- To which country would you take refuge to?

If, unfortunately, I will find myself one day in such a situation and could choose the host country, I may choose Colombia, where I have many friends.

How much “home” do you need?*

I am not obsessed with my roots. I leave that to the trees and I believe that if nature endowed me with organs to move around, there must be a reason for it. I am a citizen of the world. I have lived in several countries, and due to my work at UNESCO I have visited many more, and I think I could adapt myself in any country of warm climate and sufficient daylight hours. I would try to integrate giving the best of me.

*This question was taken from Max Frisch’s questionnaire concerning “heimat”.