160,000 join pro-refugee protest in Barcelona

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated Feb. 18, 2017 at 8:42 PM
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Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands marched through the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, demanding the Spanish government honor a 2015 pledge to take in more refugees.

Many protesters in Spain's second-largest city carried signs with the slogan "Enough excuses! Take them in now!"

Police estimated the crowd at about 160,000, though protest organizers put the figure at more than 300,000. Organizer Ruben Wagensberg told ITV what was clear after the protest was that the Catalonia region of Spain is prepared to welcome refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and Africa.

"There is an ample consensus in Catalonia to demand that the [government's] commitments are upheld, he said.

In 2015, the Spanish government in cooperation with other European nations dealing with the migrant crisis pledged to take in more than 17,000 refugees over a two-year period. Like many of its Eurozone neighbors, Spain has been slow to live up to that pledge. Protesters said only about 1,000 refugees have been admitted into the country since the pledge was announced.

Unlike other European countries, Spain faces a unique circumstance -- it has two small slivers of land on the African continent across the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco that have become a popular spot for African migrants to attempt to enter the country.

A group of 500 migrants attacked a border fence in one of the enclaves Ceurta, this week in an attempt to reach mainland Spain and the Eurozone. Spanish police said it is likely several hundred of the group evaded capture and entered the country illegally in Ceurta. Hundreds more were rounded up and will either be repatriated or allowed to begin the refugee application process.

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