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Spanish hotel owner turns resort over to refugees during coronavirus crisis

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MADRID (Reuters) - In a complex of holiday bungalows to the east of Madrid, Venezuelan refugees and homeless people have replaced the tourists, business meetings and wedding parties that usually fill the premises.

The owner of the La Ciguena resort has turned the facility over to some of Madrid’s most vulnerable families, after he had to close the hotel because of the coronavirus outbreak sweeping through Spain.

“Since we’ve arrived, they’ve attended to our every need,” said Stephanie Paez, an eight-month pregnant Venezuelan refugee accompanied by her partner and mother.

She said her aim was to find a job, an apartment and get her residency papers once the coronavirus crisis was over.

Spain is in strict lockdown as it battles one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. The country’s death toll has surpassed 11,000, second only to Italy. Bars, restaurants and shops selling non-essential items are closed.

The resort is housing 12 families with children, around 65 people, most of them Venezuelan refugees. Although the staff have been temporarily laid off while the complex is shut to paying visitors, they come in to help voluntarily.

Families receive breakfast, lunch and dinner and come to the dining room, which overlooks a lake, in a staggered schedule so they can keep a distance of two metres between people.

“We thought, ‘What can we do, we have to do something’ and it took one second to offer,” Miguel Angel Carnero, the manager of the La Ciguena resort, told Reuters.

“It’s a way to do our bit, to contribute during this pandemic” he said.

Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Ros Russell