The People’s Party (PPC) puts immigration at the centre of its campaign

In the last months, the Catalan branch of the Conservative People’s Party (PPC) raised controversy in breaking a taboo in Catalan-level politics: using immigration as a political tool. Many actions were performed earlier linking immigration with insecurity. such as spreading leaflets. Yesterday a videogame where the PPC's leader was shooting at illegal immigrants was put online and, after the complains, shut down. Last week, the PPC’s President and candidate, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho proposed an “integration contract” for immigrants that, if not respected, will enable public powers to expel immigrants. The rest of the parties accused the PPC of being xenophobic and populist.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

November 16, 2010 10:20 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The PPC is using immigration as a political tool. Yesterday a videogame where its leader was shooting at illegal immigrans was put online. After the wide complaints by the other parties, associations and private citizens, the PPC shut down the game, blamed the IT developer and announced that a modified version will be put online. Last Thursday, in a working-class neighbourhood of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a city of Barcelona’s metropolitan area, with a high percentage of immigrant population, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, the president of the People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC), presented her “integration contract” for foreigners. The PPC’s proposal forces immigrants to sign this contract in order to gain a residence or working permit. This contract also obliges them to respect Western values, speak Spanish and Catalan, and if jobless for a specified period of time, they will be expelled back to their countries. In the presentation, she linked insecurity and crime with immigration. This is the last in a series of actions that have been going on for months. The rest of the parties, in different degrees of intensity and clarity, qualified this last proposal by the PPC as xenophobic and populist. Catalonia's foreign population makes up 16% of the total. In some areas, immigrants represent more than 20% of the inhabitants.

A test for future elections?

Immigration had not been used earlier as a political weapon. The PPC seems to be testing this for using it at a Spanish level in the next municipal elections, scheduled for May 2011, and for the Spanish general elections, which should take place around March 2012. The economic crisis has hit Spain and Catalonia hard. Unemployment rate in Catalonia was 17.4% at the end of September. The Spanish average was 19.8%. This high unemployment, the lack of credit and a shy and slow economic recovery are asphyxiating families in working class neighbourhoods, which have particular, deep and complex social problems.

Badalona was the first lab

The Catalan People’s Party started this strategy in Badalona, the 3rd city of Catalonia located immediately next to Barcelona, in the municipal elections of 2007. They increased the number of votes despite a general reduction of the turnout. In 2003 they got 17.5% of the vows; in 2007, 21.9%. The PPC’s leader in Badalona, Xavier García Albiol, linked immigration with crime, and accused Roma people and immigrants from Romania and other nationalities of creating constant troubles to local neighbours. The PPC did not condemn García Albiol´s opinion. Quite the contrary. In fact, last April, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, PPC’s president, helped García Albiol to distribute pamphlets in a working class neighbourhood in Badalona. The pamphlets were clearly linking Roma people with crime, showing pictures of police, broken city furniture and people from the Roma community. The Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA) sent the pamphlets to the prosecutor with the accusation of xenophobia. García Albiol was called some weeks ago to go to Court and Alícia Sánchez-Camacho walked him to the doors, to give him her explicit support.

A videogame where immigrants are shot

The PPC displayed in its website a videogame (dowloadable as well as a cell phone application) where its leader, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho was shooting at what she does not like: such as Catalan separatist zepellins or illegal immigrants. The game is called "Alícia Croft", reminding the famous Lara Croft, although the game and its quality has nothing to do with the world's bestseller. Carried by a giant albatros (the Spanish People's Party symbol), Sánchez-Camacho collects torero hats (in a clear reference to the Catalan Parliament's ban on bullfighting) and shoots at illegal immigrants. Once the controversy (and the publicity) exploded, the PPC put the game offline and said it has been a mistake. The PPC blamed the IT company that created the game and said that instead of illegal immigrants, they wanted to put illegal mafias, those that bring illegal immigrants. In the middle of the Catalan electoral campaign, all the other parties have criticised the PPC and accused them to play with something very delicate.

The “integration contract”

Last week, the PPC went one step further. Sánchez-Camacho proposed an “integration contract” for immigrants. They will be obliged to sign it to be able to have legal residence and the working permit. If they break the contract, sanctions such as expulsion will be applicable. A way of breaking it is losing their job. A jobless immigrant is liable to be expelled from the country according to the PPC’s proposal. The contract also foresees the obligation to learn Spanish and Catalan, and to respect Western values. The latter coincides with the banning of burqas and niqabs in municipal buildings in some Catalan towns, bans supported not only by the PPC but by other parties, such as the moderate Catalan nationalists (CiU) and the socialists (PSC).

Opposition from the others parties

All the other parties oppose the “integration contract”. The clearer and more explicit one has been the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA), which brought the PPC to court for Badalona’s pamphlet and warned the PPC that it will keep going to court if the PPC continues with this attitude. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) candidate and current President of the Catalan Government, José Montilla said the PPC was “xenophobic and populist” with “this miserable announcement”. The main opposition party and the most probable winner of the next elections, the Centre-Right Catalan nationalist Party (CiU) also criticised the PPC, stressing that Catalonia has always been a land and society of integration. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which could lose the status of the 3rd party in the Catalan Parliament to the benefit of the PPC (that currently it is the 4th), also criticised the PPC, and so did the anti-Catalan Nationalism and Spanish Nationalist Citizen’s Party (C’s).

Catalonia, a society used to receiving foreigners

Catalonia is used to receiving people from outside its borders. In the 1950s and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, many people coming from poorer parts of Spain migrated to Catalonia to start a new life. People from Andalucía, Galicia, Extremadura or Murcia were arriving by hundreds of thousands, doubling Catalonia’s population, which reached 6 million people in the early 1980s. These people do not consider themselves as migrants, as they moved within Spain. They had the Spanish language, Catholic religion and the same nationality already in common. Franco’s dictatorship regime built giant blocks of flats to host the people who were arriving, mainly around Barcelona, creating a belt around Catalonia’s capital.

Nowadays, most of the current immigrants also choose to live within this belt. In the 1990s and the first decade of this century, immigrants were coming from outside Spain, firstly from Morocco and then from South America. In recent years most immigrants have come from Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan countries and Pakistan. In the last two years, immigration fluxes slowed down a lot, almost to stagnation levels, due to the economic crisis. In fact, the economic crisis put many of those who came years ago for work on the dole and in the hands of the welfare state.