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Spanish aristocrat welcomes Syrian refugee families to live in his palace

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Spanish aristocrat welcomes Syrian refugee families to live in his palace
Cayetano Luis Martínez de Irujo. Photo: Ho / Pool / AFP.
16:20 CEST+02:00
An aristocrat from one of Spain's wealthiest families has thrown open the doors of his estate to welcome two refugee families after they fled war-torn Syria.

The youngest son of the late Duchess of Alba, an eccentric aristocrat and Spain's richest and most titled noble when she died last November, has come clean about the extent of his philanthropic deeds.

Cayetano Martinez de Irujo y Fitz-James Stuart, the 4th Duke of Arjona and 13th Count of Salvatierra has revealed that his family estate near Seville has, for the last 18 months, been home to two families from Syria.

The Duke told Spanish broadcaster Cuatro that he was stirred into action after reading about the plight of Salam, a urologist who speaks five languages who was living on the streets of Spain with his family.

"I saw this headline that said 'We would prefer to go back to dying amid bombs than to keep living in the street'. I read the report and I said 'I have to do something'," the Duke said in the televised interview.

"I always do things and don't talk about them," he added. "But in this moment I feel so sensitive about this, so angry, so helpless in the face of what is happening that of course I agreed to speak."

Cayetano Martínez said he was moved by Salam's story of how his practice was bombed and many of the patients were killed.

Salam said after he gave an interview about his story to a newspaper, he received a surprising phone call.

"We got a call that there was someone very important who wanted to see us," Salam told Noticias Cuatro with a laugh.

"With the help of Don Cayetano, we now have a very good future," Salam's wife told the broadcaster.

Cayetano Martínez is one of six children of the Duchess of Alba, one of Spain's most loved characters and the world's most titled aristocrat when she died last November.


The Duchess of Alba dancing with a Spanish matador at her third and final wedding in 2011. Photo: Ricardo Garcia / Pool / AFP.

News of the Duke's generosity comes as Spain is facing pressure by the EU to take in thousands more refugees as Spanish leaders have continued to rebuke previous proposals. 

The European Commission is set to ask Spain to take in 15,000 people after the country previously said it would take just 2,749 and insists that it lacks the necessary resources.

But local leaders and residents have stepped up in recent weeks to offer their own support to refugees in contrast to the central government. A Barcelona-launched initiative aims to unite cities across the country in a network where residents can volunteer to house refugees.

READ MORE: Six simple ways to make a difference and help refugees in Spain

Dozens of cities have jumped on board with the planned network and hundreds have contacted local officials saying they want to offer up their homes.

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