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REFUGEE CRISIS

Brussels rebukes Spain for failing to take in refugees

The Spanish government has not accepted a single person since admitting 18 at the end of 2015

Refugees and migrants wait in line for tea in a camp in Idomeni, on the border between Greece and Macedonia.
Refugees and migrants wait in line for tea in a camp in Idomeni, on the border between Greece and Macedonia. Reuters

Spain has only taken in 18 refugees since September 2015, when European countries pledged to help people fleeing conflict in Syria. 

In March, the Spanish government promised to speed up that rate by accepting 467 new refugees within that same month. 

But a European Commission report shows that nearly two weeks after the deadline expired, not a single one of those 467 people has arrived on Spanish soil.

Spain has all the necessary conditions to increase its figures, but must accept greater responsibility and commitment

Acnur representative in Spain

Several European institutions are rebuking Spain for these disappointing numbers, and talking about "a lack of willingness" on the part of the Popular Party (PP) acting administration. Acnur, the United Nations refugee agency, joined that chorus of critical voices in Congress on Tuesday.

Asked by this newspaper, government sources said that all relevant applications have been filed, but that no answers have been received so far.

The acting government of Mariano Rajoy, of the Popular Party (PP), is planning to take in 32 refugees currently in Italy, but authorities there have failed to take any steps to facilitate that move, said sources at the foreign affairs ministry.

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Likewise, it is willing to accept 150 refugees now in Greece, and a further 285 in Turkey, but says that multiple requests filed with Acnur, the United Nations refugee agency, have been useless.

By comparison, Portugal, whose population is four times smaller than Spain’s, has taken in 181 individuals. And countries that do not belong to the EU, such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Iceland, have taken in many more from Turkey.

Acnur has asked the Spanish government to be more flexible with its criteria, explained the agency's representative in Spain, Francesca Friz-Prguda.

"Spain has all the necessary conditions to increase its figures, but must accept greater responsibility and commitment," she told the congressional mixed committee on EU affairs.

English version by Susana Urra.

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