|In scenes reminiscent of the widespread protests that swept Europe a year ago, human rights groups and social activists marched in 30 cities across Spain to demand that the government do more to help migrants and refugees and end “Fortress Europe.”
United under the hashtags #NoEUFortaleza #NoFortressEU, protesters decried the perceived indifference of the Spanish and other European governments in the face of the refugee and migrant crisis.
The protests come just days after a controversial working paper was leaked in which German authorities proposed relaxing human rights protection for refugees to expedite the deportation process, should Europe witness another influx of asylum seekers and economic migrants.
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“This is a European initiative that promises to remind our political representatives that the current migration policy is unacceptable and is placing far too many lives at risk. We demand safe passage to Europe,” organizer and activist Javier Baeza told Público.
“Nobody puts their child on a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
Over 70 human rights and social activist groups participated and organized the massive event, including el Foro Alternativo (The Alternative Forum), The Spanish Refugee Commission (Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado or CEAR), Amnesty International, Bienvenidos Refugiados España (Refugees Welcome Spain) and Obrim Fronteres (Open Borders), to name but a few.
The primary goal of the marches was to call for a new and improved European migration and refugee policy that does more to protect the human rights of migrants and mobilizes more resources to prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean.
“Europe, you scoundrels, open up the borders!” the crowds chanted.
Counter-protesters from the far-right Hogar Social group were driven away from the marches with chants of: “Fascists, off our streets!”In addition, the pro-refugees protesters called on the Spanish government to greatly increase the number of refugees accepted, and accelerate the process that has so far lagged behind dramatically.Furthermore, the protests called for improvements to refugee legislation on unaccompanied minors.
"There are 20,000 unaccompanied minors that are at risk of trauma that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Those who say that immigrants undermine nations are lying, they greatly benefit [the host countries],"a spokesperson for The Immigrantsâ Platform of Madrid said when speaking with Publico.