Spain starts taking in refugees after sharp criticism

25th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Spain started taking in refugees this week from camps in Europe, Turkey and Lebanon, pledging to welcome 586 people from now until the end of June after months of strident debate over governmental inaction.

Twenty-two Eritrean men arrived at Madrid's airport on a flight from Rome on Wednesday, the interior ministry said.

Twenty Syrians and Iraqis coming from Greece were taken in on Tuesday -- the first since November last year.

The ministry said that Spain planned to welcome a total of 586 refugees from now until the end of June -- a majority of them Syrian and Iraqi.

Among these, 285 are coming from camps in Lebanon, 150 from Greece, and the rest from Turkey and Italy.

Last year, some 1.3 million refugees coming mostly from the conflict-ridden countries of Syria and Iraq asked for asylum in the European Union -- more than a of third of them in Germany.

So far this year, the International Organisation for Migration says an estimated 190,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. Another 1,359 have died en route.

The European Union has put in place a programme aimed at redistributing a first group of 140,000 people throughout the 28 member states.

Spain agreed to take in more than 17,000, but until this week just 17 had arrived, with authorities blaming slow administrative procedures in Greece and Italy.

Politicians and associations in Spain heavily criticised the current conservative government over the slow progress.

In April, four lawmakers -- including two from far-left party Podemos -- went on hunger strike for one week to put the spotlight on the plight of refugees.

Socialist party chief Pedro Sanchez, meanwhile, accused the government of "embarrassing Spain."


© 2016 AFP

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