• 28 October 2021


    Posteado en : Interview

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    Seeing how the Arab world and black Africa coexist was shocking to me

    Mario Farnós is a Guardia Civil lieutenant and the director of a project in Mauritania on maritime security. Next, we know his experience in the African country

     What was your arrival in Mauritania like? Is there anything you remember in particular? 

    My arrival in Mauritania was calm at first since the coordinator (Alejandro Bosch) and I arrived together, and that calms you down a bit. For me it was the first long-term stay in Africa. You realise that Mauritania is a mixture of cultures, you know that it is an Islamic republic, as far as religion is concerned, but seeing how the Arab world and black Africa coexist was shocking for me. 

    As an interesting anecdote, eating with your hands is not easy…. seeing how they look at you, waiting to see if you eat the rice, or how you are going to cut a piece of meat. In the end they help you, they themselves cut it with their hand and give you the piece so you can eat, you can’t refuse such a gesture of kindness which, when you’re hungry, is very welcome. 

    How did the adaptation period go? What were the hardest and easiest things for you? 

    What I found hardest, professionally, was to take things with the relative simplicity and calm with which things are done here, they don’t plan over the short term, nor are they so strict with schedules or deadlines, but the day when something has to be done, they are there, they organise it from one day to the next, without any problem. 

    It reminds me a lot of how we used to do things in Spain 25 years ago, without so much protocol, procedure, and so on. 

    The least difficult thing for me was to see things from their point of view, I think I can empathise with people and I put myself in their place, I ask them for things knowing the means the country has available, the situation, the resources and the staff they have available, to know how far we can go together. 

    Is this your first experience outside of Spain?   

    Long-term, it is my first experience, I had already worked with FIIAPP as a short-term expert in Chile and Bolivia, but Islamic culture has nothing to do with Latin America. 

    Right now I am at the midpoint, I have been here a year and in principle I have another one to go, insallah! Although you never know how long we will be here, I am really happy. 

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?  

    My day to day is completely different from what I did in Spain. 

    I worked as a post commander on the island of Fuerteventura and there your main function was to anticipate the arrival of immigrants, coordinate the security mechanism upon their arrival, anticipate they would awaiting medical assistance and transfer them to the hospital or to the Bureau of Immigration for their identification. Here it is very different, it’s working day to day with different institutions such as the National Gendarmerie, the Mauritanian Coast Guard, the Mauritanian Police and organising joint meetings so that they can work in a coordinated manner, not subordinate, in the field of maritime security and immigration , especially irregular immigration. 

    What is your relationship with FIIAPP like? And with your colleagues in Mauritania? 

    The relationship with FIIAPP staff, who are in Madrid, is different from how I had been working. Getting to know FIIAPP’s methodology, the processes, the procedures, understanding that everyone has their own patch…… but you realise that you can count on very capable professionals with extraordinary knowledge in fields I knew nothing about 

    With my colleague in Mauritania, Alejandro, what can I say? We arrived together, we shared the same office, we used just one computer and, as with colleagues from Madrid, you realise the great amount of knowledge and work capacity they have in areas you know nothing about. 

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate? 

    In two words, very positive. 

    Professionally, it was a challenge for me, working in another country, in another language, another culture and, after a year, seeing that the Mauritanian beneficiaries are happy with your work makes you feel happy. 

    And on a personal level, it is a very rewarding experience that you will never forget. 

    Find out about the project that Mario Farnós coordinates in Mauritania.  


  • 22 July 2016


    Posteado en : Interview

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    Fifty-thousand people asked the Ombudsman to take action in 2015

    El Defensor del Pueblo es el organismo encargado de defender los derechos fundamentales y las libertades públicas de los ciudadanos. Se trata de una institución independiente que, como tal, desempeña sus funciones con independencia e imparcialidad, con autonomía y según su criterio. Además, el Defensor del Pueblo ha colaborado con la FIIAPP en diferentes proyectos de cooperación internacional. El último sobre la puesta en marcha de la oficina del Defensor del Pueblo en Turquía.

    Soledad Becerril, the Ombudsman since 2012, was the first woman to hold the office in Spain.  In this interview, she tells us what the work of the Ombudsman’s Office consists of:


    Do all citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office?

    All citizens have access to the Ombudsman’s Office, on a non-discriminatory basis and, we hope, without any type of difficulty. Because, for submitting their complaints, they have toll-free numbers they can call, they can write to us directly by sending a letter, come into the Ombudsman’s Office physically to explain their problem and, of course they can also do so via Internet, using e-mail or through our website.


    What types of complaints does the Ombudsman handle?

    Complaints about public administrations. The Ombudsman does not handle complaints between private citizens or private institutions or businesses.

    We also act through the corresponding ministry in the case of large companies that provide public services, such as telephony or transport, or, for example, matters related to banks, through the Bank of Spain. But we handle all types of situations and problems. In relation to disabled people, problems with local taxes, matters involving the national tax agency, waiting lists in hospitals, etc. In short, all types of problems and circumstances.


    Are all of the complaints in Spain brought before the Ombudsman handled in Madrid, or are there also branch offices in the self-governing communities?

    We cover the entire Spanish territory. There are also Ombudsman’s Offices in ten self-governing communities which have the capacity to act within the jurisdiction of the particular community.


    How many complaints are received each year by the Ombudsman’s Office?

    Around 20,000. And, a great number of them are submitted by individuals. Although groups, associations and institutions can also contact us.

    In 2015, in the annual report we present every year to parliament, we realised that 50,000 people had submitted documents requesting action from the Ombudsman.


    Are there priority issues for the Ombudsman’s Office?

    We don’t have priority issues. What we do is to try to identify situations that are more urgent than others. For example, if there is a person in an irregular administrative situation who is about to be deported and we are aware that there are also circumstances of vulnerability involved, very unique or very special ones, we act rapidly before the person is deported.

    If we are aware that a minor’s situation is very dramatic or very difficult, these situations are handled before other ones, but all issues are addressed.


    What are the main challenges facing the Ombudsman’s Office?

    The greatest challenge is to reach the greatest possible number of people and to ensure that the greatest number of people with a problem know how to contact the Ombudsman and can do so. That’s why the website is so important. To make us visible and make the population understand what we do, to be appreciated. This is fundamental, having the trust of citizens.


    Defensor del pueblo_Madrid
    Ombudsman´s office in Madrid


    What are the greatest difficulties?

    The same difficulties that all administrations, local governments, regional community governments or the national government have; budgetary problems related to getting more money allocated to assistance, social or health services.


    What is the role of the Ombudsman in other countries?

    Most countries in the European Union have ombudsman’s offices, as well as Ibero-American and some Mediterranean countries. We have helped them and assisted in training the teams working in these ombudsman’s offices.

    Most recently we were in Turkey for two years (through a project managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Commission). We showed them how we work in Spain and collaborated in training the staff there. In addition, we have an ongoing relationship of collaboration with the Ibero-American ombudsman’s offices, which follow the Spanish model.


     What has the Spanish Ombudsman’s Office contributed in Turkey?

    We provided part of the necessary training to its teams: how to handle matters, which areas they can take action in, how action can be taken, how to contact administrations, monitoring of legislation in force, respect for human rights… in sum, all of these fields.


    How are Turkish citizens benefiting from this project?

    Turkey is a very large country, with 80 million inhabitants; extending the action of the Ombudsman throughout the entire geography and to all Turkish citizens is going to take some time and a great deal of effort. But I hope that little by little they achieve it.


    Are there plans to work on more projects in other countries?

    If other projects come up, yes. We’ll do it based on requests for our help.


    What is the role of the Ombudsman in refugee issues?

    This is a very complicated issue because the procedures are quite convoluted, but the position of the Ombudsman is to carry out monitoring to ensure that Spain fulfils its commitments in this area. From the Ombudsman’s Office we speak out in favour of receiving, welcoming and integrating the people arriving in our country.