Thousands protest in Madrid for refugees

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SEVERAL THOUSAND-people marched in Madrid last weekend to demand that the Spanish government immediately fulfils its commitment to take in more than 17,000 refugees as part of a European relocation plan.

The crowds chanted, ‘No human being is illegal’, as they walked in scorching heat through the centre of the capital, holding banners that read, ‘Open the borders’, ‘Bridges, not walls’ and ‘Enough with excuses, no more barriers’.

Last Saturday’s protest, organised by dozens of NGOs, including UK-based rights group Amnesty International, came just a few days before World Refugee Day was celebrated on Tuesday.

Organisers, quoted by the Spanish press, said some 8,000-people attended the demonstration.

The protest also comes as the deadline nears to relocate 160,000 refugees across Europe under a solidarity plan put in place in 2015 to try to remedy the continent’s biggest-ever refugee crisis and ease the burden on front-line states Italy and Greece.

However, by the start of June, fewer than 20,000 refugees had been relocated.

Spain had pledged to take in more than 17,300 and has so far only welcomed just over 1,300  according to Amnesty International.

‘Spain is doing absolutely nothing of what it should be doing, it’s a disgrace for Spain and Europe,’ Carlos Diez, a 55-year-old secondary school teacher at the protest, told the Spanish press.

Estrella Moran, secretary-general of the Spain Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR), said the period for the first arrivals ends next month, while the second period will run until September 26.

‘At the moment only 7.5 per cent of these persons have been accommodated,’ Moran told the Associated Press news agency. ‘There are people in Greece who are living in inhumane conditions and unhealthy situations, there are people in Turkey, in Lebanon and Palestine who deserve a new life.’

In February, at least 160,000 people marched in Barcelona to demand the Spanish government fulfil its commitment to refugees.

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