Thousands in Spain Protest for More Refugees

by Randall T. Oliver

In a world where the subjects of immigration and refugees are “hot-button” issues, Spain is drawing attention from its protests. This week, between 160,000 and 300,000 demonstrators in Barcelona demanded that the government accept more refugees into the country. In 2015, the Spanish government committed to admitting 17,000 refugees within the next two years. Since making that commitment, however, Spain has accepted just 1,100 refugees. By comparison, in 2015 alone, Germany admitted an estimated 890,000 refugees.

The population of Spain currently sits at around 47 million people. However, its refugee population numbers at roughly 6,000. Proportionally, the country has one of the lowest refugee populations in Europe. (Per capita, Finland has 113 times more refugees than Spain.) Though Spain’s makes up 9.14% of the European Union’s total population, it only processed approximately 0.95% of the 625,000 asylum applications received in the European Union in 2014, and it processed roughly 1.2% of the 1.3 million asylum applications received in 2015. (In 2015, Spain denied 7 out of 10 of the asylum applications it process.) Spain’s refugee disparity is due to numerous factors including: the appeal for refugees to migrate to more economically successful European countries, the Spanish government’s tougher stance on immigration, and even Spain’s geographic location. Now, the European Union is threatening to fine the country billions of dollars.

While its number of refugees may not show it, according to a 2016 BBC poll, Spain is the country most open to receiving refugees, specifically from Syria. The poll showed 84% of the Spanish population supported taking in more Syrian refugees. (Out of the 1.3 million European Union asylum application in 2015, 378,000 were Syrian applications.) Spain represents a kind of political conundrum; popular support does not equate to government policy. In fact, even with the support of the vast majority of citizens, the Spanish government has yet to honor its agreement on accepting refugees. Will popular demonstrations impact immigration policy? If Spain accepts more refugees, will public support remain as high? Is Spain’s support for more refugees due to their low population of refugees? These are the questions that Spain will be answering in the coming months and/or years.

BBC Article on Barcelona Protests:

Executive Summary on the Situation of Refugees in Spain and Europe:

PewResearch on Refugees to Europe in 2015:

europeTeam Refugespain, refugees