Several thousand people have taken to the streets of Madrid demanding that the government fulfil its pledge of taking in more than 17,000 refugees as part of a European relocation plan. Thus far, it has welcomed just over 1,300. A few thousand migrants started arriving in Spain by sea back in 2015, but, then, the country was far from the refugee crisis that is currently gripping much of the world today.
As of late, European leaders’ stance on refugees has been unwelcoming, with many blaming the ‘influx’ of refugees on general unrest, sexual assault and terrorism. The exception being Germany’s Angela Merkel who had gone as far as revoking the Dublin Convention which provides that refugees are able to apply for asylum only from their first point of entry into the EU. However, a mere year later she went on the record to regret her decision to take in around one million refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. This about-turn followed immense public backlash, delivering her party several electoral defeats along the way. This makes Spain’s people-led protests all the more significant.
The Spanish have always been more accepting of migrants than much of the rest of the EU. Like elsewhere in the Union, they, too, have had experience of the threat of Islamist extremism. Thus in this context, these recent protests can be described as anything but ordinary. Especially considering how they provide a counter-narrative to the rhetoric manufactured over the years by anti-nationalist politicians and right-wing groups across Europe and the US.
We respect the Spanish people for standing up for what is right. When the West turns its back on oppressed people who are fleeing terror it is not simply a matter of being unjust — which it certainly is given the collective militarisation of Euro-Atlanticist foreign policy. It also strengthens the terrorist narrative. Yet these protestors want to see their country doing far more to help the citizens of war-torn countries like Syria, who are facing bombs from all sides; meaning from both the NATO war machine and the brutal Damascus regime, the ‘good’ guys and the ‘baddies’. At a time when the world is closing its doors to refugees, such demonstrations offer a glimmer of hope. Thus we wholeheartedly support the people of Spain and demand that Madrid fulfil the pledge it made two years ago so the European relocation plan is implemented. *
Published in Daily Times, June 20th, 2017.