OVER 30 years since Spain first allowed women to join its Armed Forces, a female soldier has been promoted to General for the first time in the country's history. Patricia Ortega, 56, from Madrid, was due to have...
Spain welcomes refugees, says Amnesty International: 97% in favour
By thinkSPAIN Team Thu, May 19, 2016
One in five would offer them a spare room in their own homes, shows survey
AN OVERWHELMING 97% of Spaniards are in favour of taking in refugees from the Middle Eastern war zones, and nearly one in five would happily put them up in their homes, according to Amnesty International’s global survey.
The research found that the most refugee-welcoming country was Germany, followed by China and then the UK, with Spain sixth.
But these positions covered across-the-board views about whether respondents would be happy to accept refugees in their country, their region, their town, their neighbourhood or their house.
Whilst fewer Germans, Chinese and Brits were in favour of taking refugees into their countries than Spaniards, the numbers were higher for ‘town’ and ‘neighbourhood’ in these nations than they were for Spain, which skewed the results to a certain degree.
For example, 84% of Germans and 85% of Chinese would welcome refugees into their country, compared with Spain’s 97%, but more Germans and Chinese would allow them to live in their homes and in their neighbourhoods – which, in Spain, was just 18% and 31% respectively.
Overall, Spain came out with a 71% pro-refugee score, putting the country in sixth place behind Germany, China, the UK, Canada and Australia.
On average and worldwide, eight in 10 people would welcome refugees with open arms, and one in 10 would let them live in their houses whilst nearly a third would be happy for them to live in their neighbourhood and almost half want them in their town.
Those willing to move asylum seekers in with them rose to 46% in China, 29% in the UK, and 20% in Greece
Russia was the least welcoming, with only 18% in favour of even letting refugees into their country and just 1% saying they would be happy for refugees to live in their homes, and only 3% of Polish people would offer a spare room, if they had one, to asylum seekers.
Indonesia and Thailand were the second- and third-least welcoming, the poll showed.
A total of 82% of Spaniards feel their government could and should be doing much more to help those fleeing war and persecution – not just Syrians and Iraqis, but asylum seekers from all over the world.
Yet of the 160,000 refugees the European Commission agreed to take in between 2015 and 2016, only 1,145 have been granted asylum, of whom just 18 in Spain.
In Spain, respondents with a higher level of education and social class were statistically more likely to agree to refugees moving in and the lower classes and those with limited formal education were more likely to be against allowing them asylum in Spain.
The survey covered 27,000 people in 27 countries across all continents except the Antarctic, and found that the average citizen’s attitude to refugees was vastly different to that of the politicians running their nations.
“These numbers speak for themselves. People are willing to welcome refugees, and the inhumane responses to the crisis by governments have nothing to do with public opinion in their countries,” states Amnesty International’s secretary-general Salil Shetty.
Even countries already heavily populated with refugees, such as Greece and Jordan – in the latter, nearly half the population are asylum seekers – are still happy to take in more, according to the research.
Amnesty International, along with the United Nations and numerous other international associations – along with vast numbers of members of the public – is among those who have condemned the ‘inhumane’ EU-Turkey deal whereby any refugees entering Greece via the back door will be returned to Turkey, and for each ‘illegal immigrant’ sent back, one refugee would be taken in by Europe.
“Governments’ efforts to keep those fleeing persecution and war away are in direct conflict with the humanity and compassion shown by the public who voted for them – not to mention the breach of their legal obligations they are signed up to,” Shetty continued.
Practically every country on earth has signed the 1951 Geneva Convention on asylum seekers, which requires them all to accept and grant refugee status to those who enter their country, legally or illegally, where remaining in their own nation would leave them vulnerable to death, violence, torture or persecution.
It is illegal under the Convention to return an asylum seeker to a country where he or she would face any of these threats, and the ‘Dublin treaty’ on their seeking refugee status in the ‘first safe country’ is generally waived in times of huge international conflict, such as that of Syria.
It is also generally accepted that an asylum seeker will have entered his or her destination country illegally, with or without documentation and by fair means or foul, since the situation they are fleeing means, by definition, that they do not normally have the ‘luxury’ of doing so in accordance with the rule book.
Not one country in the past 65 years has ever withdrawn from the asylum-seekers’ Convention, even though they all have the right to formally cancel their adherence.
“Refugees need to be helped, protected and welcomed into communities – not kept at a distance in camps or detention centres as recluses,” Shetty continues.
“Politicians need to sort out this shameful and unbalanced situation in which 86% of the world’s asylum seekers are taken in by the planet’s poorest countries, whilst the world’s richest countries refuse to honour their legal responsibilities.”
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