ARGELÈS-SUR-MER, France (AFP) – Spain’s Pedro Sanchez on Sunday urged Europeans to resist the “winds of xenophobia” threatening the continent, as he marked 80 years since the flight of 475,000 Spaniards to France after Francisco Franco seized power after a brutal civil war.
“Across Europe, the winds of xenophobia are blowing,” the Spanish premier said in Argeles-sur-Mer, a seaside town just across the border in southern France where he paid tribute to the exiles of the “Retirada” (Retreat).
He pointed to the recent desecration of Jewish graves in France and to the ongoing dispute over migrants arriving by sea from Africa, pointing to “the ports which refuse to let ships full of sick and hungry people dock.”
“Don’t look the other way,” he said.
“Don’t think that anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia and nationalism that excludes people, are just small winds that will blow themselves out.”
Argeles-sur-Mer was where around 100,000 Spanish refugees were initially held at a squalid open-air camp that the photographer Robert Capa denounced as called a “hell on sand”.
It was the final stop on Sanchez’s visit which also took him to several other key Retirada sites.
The visit came as Sanchez, who took over as prime minister last June, gears up to face a populist challenge back home ahead of early elections in April in the latest chapter of political turbulence in Spain.
His efforts to honour the memory of Franco’s victims have infuriated the new far-right Vox party and the rightwing Popular Party, alongside his pledge to move the former dictator’s remains from an opulent mausoleum near Madrid.