Thousands rally in Spain against EU-Turkey refugee deal
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Spain to express their anger at the recent draft agreement between Brussels and Ankara regarding the expulsion of refugees from Europe.
According to organizers, some 5,000 people staged a nationwide protest across more than 50 Spanish cities on Wednesday, demanding the reconsideration of the EU-Ankara deal, reached last week which entails sending thousands of refugees stranded in Greece back to Turkey.
Under the agreement, reportedly still under negotiation, Turkey is to accept all refugees in exchange for a sum of money, faster visa-free travel to Europe for Turks and the speeding up of European Union (EU) membership talks with Ankara.
In the Spanish capital of Madrid, people from some 16 non-governmental organizations and 120 groups gathered to rally against the deal, holding placards and chanting “Refugees welcome” and “This agreement is illegal.”
The protesters said the EU initiative is in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the Geneva Convention for refugees.
“We are against decisions that have been taken by the EU and their states; that are unable to find a satisfactory decision compatible with the drama of the situation of those who are living, the millions of people who are gathered in Turkey… at the gates of the EU, where walls and fences are raised to prevent entry,” said Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, the president of the European Trade Union Confederation, speaking among protesters.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees mainly fleeing conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
The EU has reportedly offered Ankara three billion euros (USD 3.3 billion) in return for attempting to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving in the continent via Turkey.
According to a recent report by the European Commission bureau of statistics, Eurostat, some 1,255,600 refugees reached Europe in 2015. People from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan topped the Eurostat’s list of refugees.
An estimated 13,000 people are currently living either in temporary shelters designed to house only 2,000 individuals or out in the open on the Greek-Macedonian border.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus of the refugees from their home countries, pointing to Western interference in the war zones for the flare-up of violence, which has forced more and more people to flee their homes.