According to the UNHCR, 5,798 refugees resided in Spain in 2014. In 2014, 5,460 first-time asylum applications were made, an increase from 4,285 in 2013 (Eurostat data). In 2014, the top three citizenships of asylum applicants were from Syria (1,510), Ukraine (895) and Mali (595).
The government’s approach
Unlike Greece or Italy, Spain did not receive substantial inflows with the current migrant crisis. This has been due to the Spanish government’s cooperation with transit countries, like Morocco and Mauritania. The cooperation includes, among others, joint sea patrols and a radar system, which prevent mass arrivals by sea.
Initially, the Spanish government opposed the mandatory quota system proposed by the European Commission for relocating migrants and refugees arriving in the frontline Member States, but eventually it changed position and agreed to accept the quota assigned to the country.
Compared to France or the UK, racist and discriminatory elements in political speeches were not common in Spain (during municipal elections in May 2015).
Refugees in host communities
Volunteers and civil society organisations have been active assisting refugees. They collected donations, provided housing to refugees, offered translation services etc.
Spain saw an increase in hate crimes. Islamophobia accounted for 40% of incidents following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015. Reports noted a spread of racism, which takes place in public spaces.
In spring 2015, 6 per cent of respondents in Spain declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was an increase of 3 percentage points from autumn 2014.
The Center for Sociological Research carried out polls indicating that just below 8 per cent of the Spanish public is concerned about immigration, which is placed only at the eighth position among issues of concern most often mentioned by the respondents.