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Thousands march in Barcelona to support refugees
By Jerry Brownstein
About 160,000 people marched through the streets of Barcelona on 18 February 2017, in protest of the Spanish government’s failure to meet its pledge to take in thousands of refugees. Ada Colau, the mayor of Spain’s second largest city, had called on Barcelona residents to fill the streets and march under the slogan “volem acollir” (“We want to welcome them” in Catalan). Many of those flooding the major Via Laietana thoroughfare carried signs reading “Enough excuses, welcome them now”.
The protesters were urging the government in Madrid to take action on its pledge to take in about 16,000 asylum seekers from other EU countries. This is their obligation under a quota system that was agreed upon in 2015. However, the Spanish government, like several others in Europe, have fallen way short of their target with only 1,100 resettled in the country to date.
The protest was organised by a group called “Casa Nostra Casa Vostra” (Our home is your home), and one of their members described it this way, “We demand that at least this minimum number of refugees (16,000) can come. In Catalonia, everything is ready to welcome them.” Senior Barcelona lawmaker Mercè Conesa said it was “shameful” that Spain had not taken in more refugees, and urged the European commission to begin “severely sanctioning” countries that did not meet their pledges on the issue.