By Alyssa McMurtry
MADRID (AA) - A new group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees from Greece landed in Madrid’s airport Tuesday afternoon, according to Spanish media reports.
This group marks the first of many arrivals, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry, which has pledged to bring in 568 refugees before July -- 150 from Greece, 50 from Italy, 101 from Turkey and 285 from Lebanon.
The first group consisted of 20 people of Syrian and Iraqi origin -- seven men, five women and eight children. A second group of 27 is expected to arrive from Italy tomorrow. After arriving in Madrid the refugees will be placed throughout Spain.
Until Monday, only 18 refugees had been brought in since Spain pledged to take more than 15,000 refugees from Greece and Italy last September.
“The number of 586 continues to be ridiculous and only makes up three percent of the people that Spain publicly promised to bring in,” said Jose Maria Vera, Spanish director of Oxfam International, in a statement released Monday.
“Spain should have an active and decisive role in putting an end to the humanitarian drama that is occurring on European soil, like sharing the effort of bringing in refugees with countries like Jordan or Lebanon,” Vera said.
A recent survey conducted by Amnesty International suggests that individual Spaniards are the most welcoming to refugees. In the survey, an astonishing 97 percent of Spaniards said they would “personally accept people fleeing war or persecution” into their country.
Although very few refugees have been taken in through the relocation program, more than 10,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Spain through Melilla since 2012, according to leading Spanish daily El Pais.
Of those refugees, the paper reported that approximately 90 percent of them carried on to other countries, mostly Belgium and Germany.