At least 160,000 people, holding placards and banners, marched through the streets of Barcelona demanding that Spain take in more refugees seeking asylum.

Contrary to its pledge to resettle 17,000 refugees from the war-hit Middle East zones within two years, Spain has accepted only 1,100 since 2015.

The campaigners had gathered following a call given by Ada Colau, the mayor of Spain's second largest city and the capital of the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia.

Colau, who herself has drafted plans to allow more migrants, exhorted the pro-refugee demonstrators to "fill the streets" in order to highlight the alleged failure of the Spanish government. The banners in Catalan had slogans such as "Enough Excuses! Take Them in Now" and "No More Deaths, Open The Borders".

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

Though the organisers of the rally claimed a bigger turnout – as high as 300,000 – local police said nearly 160,000 took part in the march from the city centre to the Mediterranean coast. The organisers of the demonstration had urged the marchers to wear blue clothes and carry blue flags to make it look like a wave as they packed the streets.

One of the key organisers of the rally, Ruben Wagensberg, said: "There is an ample consensus in Catalonia to demand that the [government's] commitments are upheld."

A 62-year-old protester named Jacint Comelles was quoted as saying: "We demand this minimum amount of dignity – that at least this number of refugees [16,000] can come. In Catalonia, everything is ready to welcome them."