Spain took in 20 refugees from overwhelmed Greece on Tuesday in what has been a nearly stagnant process of bringing more people from war-torn nations into the Iberian country.
While Spain agreed to an EU plan last year to share the responsibility of sheltering refugees by taking in some 15,000 people from Italy and Greece, the country had taken in just 18 individuals within the six months after the agreement.
The first arrivals are part of a plan to speed up the progress, with 27 more refugees from Italy set to arrive in Wednesday with 111 set to arrive within the next nine days, according to the Interior Ministry.
Thirteen of those who arrived on Tuesday were from Syria and the others from Iraq, both countries which have seen horrific violence in recent years, particularly from the terrorist group Isis.
"With the arrival of these 20 people, the Interior Ministry has given a decided boost to the process of accepting refugees," the ministry wrote in a statement.
One couple that arrived in Madrid said that they still hoped to make it to Germany. The wife is a blind woman with Iraqi citizenship, travelling with her husband with German citizenship who had lived in Berlin. He told reporters that they had not been successful in trying to get to Germany together.
"They told me that it wouldn’t be possible, that there are no more places in Germany, but I will keep trying," said the husband, Khalib, to Spanish news agency Efe.
The first group on Tuesday comprised eight different families, among whom were eight children, seven men and five women. Ten people will go to live around Barcelona, nine are being sent to Zaragoza and one person will live in Seville.
Spaniards are generally quite eager to have refugees living in the country, according to polls, but the government has received harsh criticism as some say politicians have dragged their feet when it comes to living up to the EU promise.
But now Spain’s Interior Ministry has outlined a plan for accepting asylum seekers, declaring that by June it will have relocated 586 refugees from camps in Greece, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey.
Refugees are greeted as they arrive in Madrid. Photo: Spanish Interior Ministry.