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Barcelona protesters urge Spanish government to take in more refugees

At least 160,000 protesters have marched in Barcelona to demand that Spain's conservative-led government increase its efforts to take in refugees from war-torn countries like Syria.

Spain has accepted just 1,100 refugees of the over 17,000 it has pledged to take in.

Marchers held a large banner and signs in Catalan with the slogans Enough Excuses! Take Them In Now! and No More Deaths, Open The Borders! as they made their way through the city centre to its Mediterranean coast.

Barcelona police said 160,000 people took part in the march, while organisers said it reached 300,000 participants.

"There is an ample consensus in Catalonia to demand that the (government's) commitments are upheld," said organiser Ruben Wagensberg.

In September 2015, Spain's government pledged to bring 17,337 refugees in within two years: 15,888 from camps in Italy and Greece and 1,449 from Turkey and Libya.

On Thursday, a group of 66 refugees- 65 Syrians and one Iraqi- who arrived in Madrid raised the total number of refugees that Spain has taken in to just 1,100.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction activist who has pushed Spain's government to let her city accept more refugees, joined the march.

"It is very important that in a Europe of uncertainty where xenophobia is on the rise for Barcelona to be a capital of hope," Ms Colau said.

She also criticized the federal government's stance toward refugees in December at a Vatican conference on Europe's refugee crisis.

In contrast to Spain, fellow European Union member Germany took in 890,000 asylum-seekers in 2015 and another 280,000 in 2016.

Germany decided last year on more than 695,000 asylum applications. Nearly 60% of the applicants were granted either full refugee status or a lesser form of protection.

AP

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