Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 22:15:48 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-SPAIN: Attacks Ignite Protests Against Racism
Article: 71360
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 455.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-SPAIN: Attacks Ignite Protests Against Racism **
** Written 9:07 PM Jul 28, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Attacks Ignite Protests Against Racism

By Alicia Fraerman, InterPress Service, 28 July 1999

MADRID, Jul 28 (IPS)—Racist attacks and protests against immigrant workers over recent weeks set off massive anti-racism demonstrations throughout Spain, Tuesday.

In the last week alone, resident immigrants were beaten and attacked with sticks, one person was stabbed, and immigrants' homes were burned in the Catalonian towns of Tarrasa and Banyoles.

Also last week, municipal authorities in Madrid evicted 400 Rumanians, including many children, from their squatter settlement and destroyed their precariously constructed homes.

Public protests forced authorities to relocate the families to emergency housing in tents, but officials continue proceedings to deport more than half of the Rumanians.

Tuesday, racist groups burned a mosque and immigrant housing in Girona in Catalonia. That same day, police arrested a man, age 22, charged with creating a racist website on the Internet. The website registered more than 5,000 visits in just two days.

The arrest resulted from a police investigation that began when an Uruguayan man told the Spanish embassy in his country about threats made by a group calling itself the Neo-Nazi Spanish Sectarians of Barcelona.

But Tuesday also saw strong anti-racist reactions throughout the country.

In Tarrasa, demonstrators applauded an anti-racism declaration, which was read in Spanish, Arabic and Catalan, and signed by all political parties as well as several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The public in Barcelona protested the racist incidents at San Jaume Plaza, outside the municipal and Catalonian autonomous government buildings. Joan Raventos, president of the autonomous parliament, and representatives from political parties and over 100 NGOs joined in calling for an end to racism.

Meanwhile, authorities announced the creation of a forum for immigrant integration in Madrid. The forum is to consist of representatives from a broad spectrum of political forces.

Manuel Pimentel, Spain's minister of labour, declared that “any person living in Spain has the same rights as citizens because it is not the passport that counts, it's the person.”

Government secretary for social issues, Amalia Gomez, warned that the recent xenophobic attacks represent a serious outbreak of racism and are not just isolated incidents or pranks by troubled youth.

To fight racism, laws that regulate the status of foreigners must be modified, “in a way that permits better integration,” said Gomez.

She proposed, for example, shortening the time required for obtaining legal immigration status so immigrants may integrate more quickly into the social and labour arenas.

Two decades ago, more than three million Spanish citizens were working outside the country.

Currently, there are more than 600,000 foreigners who are legal residents, and 170,000 are from the African continent. Another 200,000 immigrants are living illegally in Spain, a country of 40 million people.

Racism is spreading throughout Spain, according to S.O.S. Racismo. The group charges that authorities are not complying with Spanish law, citing the fact that they are deporting minors, which is explicitly against the law.

S.O.S. Racismo also questions the legality of procedures in effect since 1998 at the Madrid-Barajas airport, in which authorities ask individuals for their documents as they disembark from the aircraft.

If there is any doubt about a passenger's legal status, the police send the person back on the same plane, without giving the individual in question the chance to request political asylum or legalise his or her status as an immigrant worker.

S.O.S. Racismo also charges the police with attacking, and even raping, immigrants at local police stations.

Jose Antonio Moreno, the group's spokesman, affirmed that in Spain immigration is handled “using repressive measures with a strictly police mentality.” This has translated into the fact that Spain's borders are becoming impermeable, he added.

Moreno also stated that for lacking documents, a foreign citizen spends up to 40 days in one of six “internment centres,” where officially, he or she is “held,” not “arrested.”

People held at the internment centres lack basic rights such as legal assistance, visits or communication with family members, said Moreno.