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REFUGEE CRISIS

Spain will accept quota of 15,000 refugees allocated by Brussels

No arrival date set for asylum seekers, but government is drafting plan to ensure integration

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría says Spain will accept the EU’s refugee allocation.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría says Spain will accept the EU’s refugee allocation. EL PAÍS

Spain will accept the nearly 15,000 refugees that the European Commission is asking it to take in, the government said on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría confirmed the news, but said there was still no arrival date for the 14,931 asylum seekers who will benefit from the decision.

“We are working intensely to ensure that these people are guaranteed not just entry into our country, but also the kind of mid- and long-term integration that they deserve,” said Sáenz de Santamaría.

This group of refugees is part of a larger contingent of 120,000 people whom Brussels is distributing throughout various member states. Germany, France and Spain have been asked to make the largest burden-sharing effort.

The figure also more than triples the number of asylum seekers that European Commission had asked Madrid to accept in May, before the recent surge in people fleeing conflicts in their home countries, particularly in Syria.

While the Popular Party (PP) government had initially balked at the request, arguing that Spain’s resources were already stretched as a result of illegal immigration from Africa, last week Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suggested that Spain would take in as many refugees as Brussels decided to allocate.

On Wednesday morning Rajoy described European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s ideas about a common migration policy as “a constructive proposal.”

In his first annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker demanded a “comprehensive” approach to Europe’s migration crisis and demanded that members accept binding refugee quotas.

Rajoy was especially supportive of Juncker’s suggestion for a joint €1.8 billion fund to reduce the number of economic migrants from Africa by addressing the root causes of immigration in the countries of origin.

Rajoy agreed with Juncker that the EU had the obligation to devote greater effort and money to cooperation with African countries, and said that all 28 member states should contribute to the €1.8 million fund because migratory crises would become a priority in the coming years.

English version by Susana Urra