Spain agreed to take 15,000 refugees from overwhelmed Greece and Italy under an EU distribution plan, but has so far only welcomed 18, and the country has now come under further criticism for failing to comply with its refugee intake for March 2016.
Spain promised to up the numbers and welcome 467 refugees in March but, two weeks after the end of the month, has failed to welcome a single one, according to the latest European Commission figures, published on Tuesday.
“Spain has all the necessary conditions to increase its numbers” but must assume “a greater responsibility and commitment,” said Francesca Friz-Prguda the representative for the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, in Spain, who added that the Spanish government needed to make the welcome criteria for refugees more flexible.
Spain’s government had previously blamed the low refugee numbers on the “complexity” of coordination and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that the EU plan was not going “as fast as (he’d) like”.
Brussels has piled “harsh criticism” on the figures, and has blamed Spain’s conservative government and its “lack of willingness”, EU sources told Spanish daily El País.
The Spanish government has claimed that the UNHCR has started to process the files of refugees arriving from Turkey, Greece and Italy, but says it has not heard anything from the organization yet, while sources at the UNHCR said they received the files in mid-March and processed them immediately.
While Rajoy has blamed the slow and complex EU process, opponents have criticized his government for lack of action. In early April, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera said “it’s not worth having quotas if you do not carry them through”.