Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University)
One of the ethnic minorities in Spain, whose human rights situation is far from being trouble-free is its Muslim community, consisting mainly of residents of Maghreb states, predominantly Moroccans. Its size began to grow since 1985, when the scale of immigration into Spain increased dramatically due to the need of inexpensive labour force. In the early 2004 there were 333,800 Moroccans in Spain, or 20.3% of the total number of the settlers, by far exceeding the number of other ethnic minorities that arrive in Spain from different countries.
The routes immigrants use to enter Spain are diverse. Some of them get to Spain having obtained a residence permit from the country's authorities or an official permit, enabling them to be engaged in a number of businesses. Others cross the border as tourists.
Some of those "travellers" happen to obtain a work permit by striking a contract with a businessman that enables them to stay in Spain legally, enjoying the rights of social security, health care and school education for their children as well as other advantages that the official status can provide. But the preponderance of these "tourists" become illegal after their visa expires. Many of their country fellows act in the same way when they fail to prolong the expiring contract. And, of course, the many people arrive to Spain illegally.
In the last decades the country was actually "flooded" by north African Muslims. Many people cross the Gibraltar and sail to the Canary Islands in their shallops or cutters. Some of these immigrants are apprehended and deported back home by Coast Guards, whereas for those who dare cross the sea in dilapidated boats the trip ends in a tragedy: they die.
Paradoxically, immigrants are able to find jobs even though Spain has had one of the highest Europe's unemployment indexes since the late 1970s. The thing is the native Spaniards even when they are on the UB lists are in no hurry to take the jobs of home servants, or take low-profile low-paid-for jobs at construction sites or farms. The situation is especially adverse for illegal immigrants who as often as not are engaged in the shadow economy and are over-exploited. Businessmen prefer employing people without an official registration thus reducing their overheads and wages, avoiding paying taxes and social security dues. Some of the illegal immigrants are employed by small businesses or go into retail sales business, while others are directly linked to the criminal world, engaging in drug trafficking or prostitution.
The attitudes the ordinary Spaniards take towards "aliens" is a complicated social and psychological phenomenon. From a long time ago this Catholic nation was xenophobic, rejecting other
religions. Dictator Franco in the first two decades of his rule leaned on this tradition in his autarchy, a state isolated from the rest of the world. During the Franco rule hatred for everything "foreign" was cultivated. The holdovers of the past "isolationist complex" are still shared by people in certain segments of the Spanish population.
High rates of political and socio-economic changes in Spain in the past several decades are way ahead of the changes in the social psychology, habits and customs that are still indicative of ages-long distrust of foreigners. Old prejudice is rekindled by fear of unemployment, insecure future and the wish to blame "aliens" for all problems and troubles. Mass media also contribute to this, never tiring of speaking of "foreign invasion" of Spain, inflating a sort of mental affection.
According to Professor M. Pajarez, much can be accounted for by western-centrist notions of the deep-rooted idea of the superiority of western culture over the primitive and backward cultures of the countries from which immigrants arrive to Spain1. They are often considered "beings of a lower order", given the position of marginal persons subject to discrimination wherever possible. Illegal immigrants are devoid of the rights that are regarded fundamental rights of any person, the right to hold meetings, manifestations and strikes and to form associations and trade unions. Restrictions are applied also to the legal settlers who are not entitled to participate in elections, but the right to vote has a great symbolic meaning. Depriving immigrants of this right turns them into outlaws.
However, it should be noted that the attitude towards the settlers in the Spanish society has more aspects than just the tradition of rejection. Historically opposing it was the respectful and friendly approach to other nationalities, faiths and races, rooted in the
multinational character of the Spanish state and the merger of various nationalities on the Iberian Peninsula. In the late period of the Franco rule (the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s), when the regime began to "open up" to the outer world, millions of Spaniards began to travel abroad and tourists from abroad began to visit their country, and especially after Spain joined the European Union, traditions of tolerance grew much stronger, but, according to results of pubic opinion polls, starting from mid-1990s they began to abate.
Sympathy and antipathy towards settlers from different countries and regions of the world (there are lots of settlers from the European Union, Latin America and Eastern Europe apart from the Maghreb countries) are distributed unevenly among the native population. The least welcome with Spaniards are Moroccans whom they view as an alien and dangerous force. The Spanish retain memories of "the 8-century long Muslim capture of the Iberian Peninsula", the re-conquest and the follow-up expulsion of the Moors. They (primarily supporters of the leftist forces) also remember that during the 1930s civil war more than 50,000 Moroccans sided with Franco in the fight against the republic. As for Moroccans, their view of the current situation is affected by age-long hostile relations between Spain and their homeland, that were often aggravated.
But the main thing that separates a sizeable part of Spaniards from Maghreb peoples is their views of Islam as an aggressive religion and identification of Muslims as extremists. "Spaniards view Islam, which they perceive as a way of life rather than a summation of religious beliefs, as the principal obstacle for the integration of Moroccans into their society".2
Speaking of the attitude of native Spaniards towards Muslim Arabs, one of the irritation factors of late have been mosques. The Spanish
media often reported protests against their construction. Quite often authorities allocate ground floors or garages for the construction of mosques, which is humiliating to the religious feelings of Muslims. The stance taken by some part of the Spanish population can be accounted for by the fact that according to information from law enforcement bodies some mosques give shelter to terrorists and call for the fight against "infidels"(while many of those opposing the construction of mosques prefer not to think that far from all imams are calling for the fight against "infidels", and far from all mosques shelter terrorists).
Summaries of public opinion polls about the attitude Spaniards take towards the possible marriage of their children and Moroccans are very telling. Only 54% of those polled accept such future for their children, the smallest segment of those polled (as compared to a potential marrying citizens of the European Union, Latin America and Eastern Europe, 73%, 69% and 68% correspondingly). Whenever the issue of social contacts with Moroccans without such a degree of intimacy as inter-ethnic marriage is raised, the share of people who are ready to agree to this, increases, but the spread between the attitude to the settlers from that country and other nationalities is the same. 77% of Spaniards have no objections to having a Moroccan family as their neighbours (while their consent to having neighbours from the EU, Latin America and Eastern Europe was measured as 86%, 85% and 84% correspondingly).
The preponderance of the Spanish agree that immigrants, and Moroccans in particular, live poor lives in conditions that are worse than those of native Spaniards and are subject to discrimination. However, only 31% of those polled spoke in favour of giving them more rights.
More and more native residents associate integration of the Moroccans into the Spanish society with the follow-up assimilation. 81% of the respondents in the 1996 polls agreed that "conditions for the maintenance of their traditions should be created for immigrants", but in 2002 the share of respondents who spoke in favour of that reduced to 67%. Spanish parents often protest against co-education of their children and the settlers' children. One of the most significant arguments in their position is the destruction of the cultural and linguistic homogeneity of student collectives. When this problem is discussed with such parents, they begin to explain their position saying: "I'm no racist, but...". Spanish sociologists describe this mindset that is getting stronger with the native population in the following way: "To be integrated means to become people like us. But if they cannot achieve that, they do not want it. They came to this country and they are a minority. So they should try to integrate".3
In reality, there still is some estrangement between the native Spanish and Moroccans. For example, in Madrid most Moroccan emigres except for the wealthiest who can afford luxurious apartments, live either in makeshift homes in the wasteland and the suburbs or rent rooms with minimal amenities shared by several people. Thus a micro medium isolated from the surrounding world is created, in which its own norms and behavioural patterns are established. To many Muslims the values shared by the Spanish society are absolutely alien.
Way back in 1991,48% of Moroccans admitted they suffered from the monstrosity of racism. Naturally, the barbarous terrorist act of March 11, 2004 in Madrid, the gravest in Spanish history, that had a Maghreb trace, does not add up to their popularity. Moreover, after this act Spanish special services arrested many individuals or whole groups of Moroccans and Algerians accusing them of terrorist activities and
maintaining links with Al-Qaeda. It is noteworthy that Moroccan immigrants held a series of manifestations in Spain to denounce the organisers of those acts of terror under the slogans of "Terrorists are them but not Moroccans".
In 1997 15% young people out of 2434 polled said they were "in favour of discriminatory activities including violence against immigrants and ethnic minorities such as Afro-Americans, Muslims, Jews and Gipsies". In 2000, asked: "Would you vote for a party similar to the party of Jean-Marie Lepaine in France that would raise the issue of expulsion from Spain of Moroccan immigrant workers and African Blacks?" 10% answered in the affirmative.
Africans are often denied entry into discos and bars whose owners refuse to serve them along with other customers. Black members of soccer teams who play for the Spanish clubs are made mockery or and insulted at the Spanish stadiums. Africans are robbed and attacked in the streets, their homes are put on fire. Cases of murder of immigrants are registered, too. Businessmen seeking new employees prefer people from other than Maghreb regions of the world. By the way that creates tensions between different immigrant communities.
A statement issued by the Association of Moroccan Workers and Immigrants read: "We live in unbearable conditions working like slaves. Our disappointment is boundless... The estrangement from the Spanish society and our neighbours is inseparable from daily humiliation we feel with our skin, see in your eyes, hear in your racist jokes and read in the words you tell us... We cannot become your friends because you think that you are our superiors. We live inside our community, because you refuse to accept us."4
The anti-immigrant prejudice can at times grow in size to become mass explosions of xenophobia. A graphic example was
the openly racist march-offs in El Ejido in the Almeria province on February 5 - 7, 2000. Within several decades this historically insignificant part of the country turned into one of the most flourishing regions thanks to well-organised sales of fruits and greenery grown in local greenhouses all year round. A dramatic economic uplift that brought along with it the appearance of ultramodern buildings, hotels and restaurants was the result of the ruthless exploitation of Africans who lived in the conditions of slavery (people from the Maghreb countries used to say they were "treated worse than cattle").
What triggered the racist acts was the murder by a mentally disordered African man of a Spanish girl. A genuine Muslim hunt started in El Ejido. Crowds of racists beat them up, put their homes on fire, stopped and overturned their cars. Thousands of settlers had to run for their lives.
That makes it clear why the numbers of Latin American settlers in Spain began to exceed that of Moroccans. Encouraging the arrival of Latins, the government of the Conservative People's Party in 1996 - 2004 decided that employing Latin Americans was a better way to fill vacancies and solve problems of the demographic decline, than Arab Muslims, who were constantly demanding observance of what is called the political correctness. Thus, immigration from Latin America becomes a counterbalance of sorts to the "Muslim invasion" and a means of preservation of the Spanish language and culture.
By the way, aggression can be directed towards other ethnic minorities, for example, Gipsies, who have lived in Spain for more than 500 years. This nomadic nation strewn all over the Iberian Peninsula has traditionally been regarded as "a scapegoat" and still is one of the groups suffering from cruel discrimination. Acts of aggression
committed by local population, including attempts of physical violence, arsons of Gypsies' homes and schools make them seek protection with law-enforcement agencies. An opinion poll with the participation of youths of Madrid indicated that 37% of those polled were in favour of expulsion of Gypsies from the Iberian Peninsula.
And in September 2004 the victims of aggressive acts in the townlet of Elce (the Alicante province) were Chinese footwear merchants. Containers with their stocks of footwear were broken and burned. The spark that ignited the riots was the crisis of the local footwear industry that was caused, as local residents considered, by the competition of Chinese commodities.
"Racism is based on prejudice; it determines one's social position. It can be rude, or "affable", it can be heard in what people say. Physical aggression and joke are separated by a great distance, but both are based on one and the same thing", some Spanish authors mention."5 In Spain as in many other West European countries there is a gap between open and latent racism. Only a few Spaniards who observe the political correctness openly express their racism. Many more people hide their negative attitude towards immigrants, but they are nevertheless, in sympathy with the racists.
At the same time the sizeable portion of the Spanish society does not accept racism. Many people in Spain are concerned over the growth of racism. Catalonian media voice concern over the fact that neo-fascist and skinhead attacks are not opposed to by local authorities thus instilling in their victims the sense of vulnerability, and vesting the feeling of impunity with the aggressor. Fighters against racism are especially concerned because some members of law enforcement agencies also perform acts of aggression. According to information from the NGO "S.O.S.: Racism", out of 131 registered
racist attacks in Catalonia in 2004, the law enforcement agencies were responsible for one-fourth of that number.
The Spanish experience indicates that poly-ethnicity and multi-culturalism are different phenomena. The recognition by the society of the poly-ethnicity is not proof of deep-rootedness of multi-culturalism, which presupposes preservation by the settlers of their cultural values and traditions that intertwine with the culture of the party that receives them.
The well-known Spanish sociologist M. Castells describes several models of relationships between the native population and immigrants in western countries.6
The first model is of a nationalistic, if not xenophobic, character (Germany, Scandinavia and Japan). It is characterised by rejection of immigrants, and creation of difficulties of obtaining citizenship. Examples: hundreds of thousands of Turks in Germany and Koreans in Japan.
The second model that has taken shape in Great Britain acknowledges multi-culturalism, but separates communities of immigrants from the British society and from one another by invisible but solid social and proprietary barriers.
The third model has a strong foothold in the United States, the country that absorbs cultural experience of the nationalities that live in it without encroaching upon their originality. Racism does exist in the United States, but on the whole the multiculturalism is lively and dynamic.
According to the classification of M. Castells, the Spanish model gravitates towards the fourth type, referred to as the "assimilationism". It has taken foothold in France. Polyethnicity is recognised there, but multiculturalism is rejected. Immigrants are expected to give up their culture and their language with a total acceptance of French culture.
But to say that the assimilation model has strong positions in Spain, which unlike France, turned into an immigrant country quite recently, would be premature.
Reliable control of the immigration process is extremely important for Spain. The Spanish society needs immigrants. They have already smoothed out the tensions on the employment market and provided a stimulus to the development of a number of agricultural and construction industries, and the hotel business. The settlers are also of help in terms of weakening the process of population ageing. In the conditions of the present-day demographic situation with its low birth rate level, by 2050 Spain may become one of the oldest West European nations, and its population would dramatically decrease. The nation may face reduction of industrial output, empty jobs and social stagnation.
The peculiarity of the situation (not only in Spain, but in other West European countries) is that immigration produces a collision between the requirements of economy where additional workforce is welcome and the need to solve demographic problems on the one hand, and anti-immigration moods in the society, on the other. Apprehensions by hundreds of thousands of settlers of being treated as the second-rate citizens are also to be taken into account. The principal moving force of the racial riots in France in November 2005 were legal immigrants with French citizenship, the second generation of settlers, rather than illegal immigrants. Unlike their parents they compare their opportunities with what native Frenchmen have at their disposal rather than with what their parents' native country gave them.
The counteraction to racism as much as the problem of integration of immigrants into the Spanish society is very dependent
on the stance taken by the authorities. The Spanish law acknowledges the equality of a number of foreigners' rights and freedoms with those of the native Spaniards. In particular, the settlers are guaranteed the right of lodging, protection of the family, education, legal services, protection of the rights of minors, and the right to strike (even though with some restrictions). Associations of support and protection of immigrants are officially recognised.
The Spanish immigration law is constantly changing either extending or restricting the rights and freedoms of the newly arrived. The approach to solving problems of foreigners has two evident aspects - one, very restrictive and strict, to which politicians from the conservative People's Party gravitated, and the liberal one, that is close to the present-day government formed by the Spanish Socialist Working Party.
The conservatives were oriented towards a dramatic reduction of the quota of arrivals to the country. Politicians from the People's Party and media supporting them used to create a negative image of the settlers from the third-world countries and the existence of the link between the growth of their arrival in the country and the growth of crime. The People's Party made obstacles for the illegal entry more rigorous, expanding the list of opportunities for deportation of immigrants who violate Spanish laws. However, in practice, measures taken by the People's Party, failing to reduce the influx of illegal immigrants increased their isolation from the Spanish society and provoked a growth of racist moods.
The stance taken by the SSWP government is different in that it is much more tolerant towards immigrants. From February to May 2005 a new reading of the Law on Spanish residents without the right for citizenship was in legal force in
Spain, according to which illegal immigrants who were employed in the country not less than 6 months without a residence permit, were allowed to obtain it. Implementing this law, in the opinion of the SSWP leaders allows to seriously restrict the sphere of "grey" employment, and to improve the material and legal status of hundreds of thousands of settlers, creating favourable preconditions for their integration into society. At the same time this bill has been severely criticised by observers who maintain, in particular, that easier conditions of legalisation would make Spain even more attractive for settlers from undeveloped countries and would only expand the scale of "alien invasion" with all the possible consequences.
Time will show who is right in this dispute.
A complex of measures is needed to stipulate integration of the Muslim minority into the Spanish society, and correspondingly, to abate racist moods. Included in it should be state guarantee of security of officially registered foreign workers, including opportunity to increase their skills and give them the right to take certain jobs in the social sector, holding government's inspections with an eye at preventing discrimination on the job, prevention of discrimination in the process of solving problems of their lodging with reliance on common legal norms, giving to the poorest settlers the right to have free medical aid and for their children to attend classes in their native language at schools, its use by social service agencies and places of rest, curtailing practices of Spanish parents removing their children from classes attended by many foreigners, and respect for the religious feelings of immigrants.
Nevertheless, expenditure on "immigration problems solution" in Spain in 2002 amounted to 0.4% of the GDP, which is significantly
lower than in some other West European nations (for example, it is 6% of the GDP in the Netherlands and Denmark). This can probably be accounted for by the "the young age" of the immigration problems in Spain. It is quite evident that the Spanish authorities have so far been only approaching working out of a programme of acceptance and accommodation of immigrants that would meet the requirements of the present-day situation.
Only acknowledgement of originality of the settlers' culture and respect of their traditions can facilitate creation of a climate, in which trust among different nations and ethnic groups is installed. The Spanish authorities, schools and mass media can play an important role in implementing what can be called "the code of behaviour" in dealing with immigrants, based on respect of their human rights. But even such an effort may not be enough. The wish and capacity of the settlers to integrate into the Spanish society, mastering the language, studying the history and showing respect for the cultural traditions of the native population is no less important. Many Muslims refuse to acknowledge other people's values asserting their habits and customs. The ethno-cultural gap is still in place. But normal co-existence between the Spanish population and Muslim Arabs, whose number is steadily increasing, is highly problematic without their coming closer together. The country can plunge in the permanent political instability fraught with destructive conflicts.
1. Pajares M. La integracion ciudadana. Una perspectiva para la inmigracion. Barcelona: Icaria editorial, s.a., 2005, p. 67.
2. Cea D'Ancona M. A. La activacion de la xenofobia en Espana. Que miden las encuestas? Madrid: Centro de investigaciones sociologicas, 2004, p. 121 - 122.
4. Goytisolo J., Nair S. El peaje de la vida. Integracion о rechazo de la emigracion en Espana. Madrid:Ediciones Santillana, S. A., 2001, p. 226.
6. Castells M. El reto de multiculturalismo. El Periodico de Cataluna. Barcelona, 1.02.2005.
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