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Behind the numbers: The 124 refugees in Spain

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Translation by:

Francesca Teal

SocietyBehind the Numbers

In the autumn of 2015, Spain pledged to take in 16,000 refugees who had reached the Greek and Italian coastlines. Eight months later, only 124 have arrived in Spain. What’s the reason for this shortfall?

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 1,015,078 refugees made the Mediterranean crossing in 2015. Out of these arrivals, the European Commission decided that its member states should relocate a total of 160,000 already within the EU's borders and 20,000 from elsewhere, such as in Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.

Spain had pledged to welcome 16,000 refugees. After endless ups and downs, debates, promises and good intentions, the reality is a far cry from this initial target. According to a report provided by the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), produced with data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the European Commission, 204,311 people have arrived in Europe so far this year, of which the EU have relocated 1,911. Spain, up to now, have taken in 40 people from Italy and 84 from Greece, making a grand total of 124 out of 16,000 pledged new arrivals.

It’s a figure that massively contradicts the original target, yet the acting Minister of Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, has affirmed that this will change in June.  The Minister of the Interior’s webpage suggests that by the end of the month, Spain will have taken in 586 people, either relocated from Greece and Italy or resettled from Lebanon and Turkey. The General Union of Workers (UGT), who oppose the current government, said that,"Over half of these refugees were taken in by the government during their pre-election campaign. This means we'll have to see if, as soon as the general elections are over, the situation once again grinds to a halt."

Some people look back into the past when thinking about such situations. For Spaniards, the refugee crisis isn’t something new. According to the historian Alicia Alted, in her book The voice of the vanquished: the Republican exile of 1939, between 1936 and 1939 during the Spanish Civil War, around 465,000 people crossed the French border. Comparisons aside, the important thing is that the original pledge be fulfilled.


This article is part of our Behind the Numbers series, illustrating newsworthy stats with artistic design and a brief analysis.

Story by

Ana Valiente

Spanish freelance journalist based in Madrid. Currently exploring the boundless world of documentary filmmaking.

Translated from Cifras que hablan por sí solas: 124 refugiados en España