Knowledge of Catalan language to be taken into account to renew immigration certificates

The Catalan Government announced that knowledge of the Catalan language will be a “very determining” factor in proving integration in Catalonia in order to renew residency certificates or family grouping.

CNA / Patricia Mateos / Gaspar Pericay Coll

March 16, 2011 12:26 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, announced in a press conference today after the weekly Cabinet meeting that the detail rules of the ‘Welcoming Catalan Law’ will be developed. Homs did not announce definitive measures but he stated that knowledge of the Catalan language will be a “very determining” factor when issuing immigration certificates, such as family grouping or residency permits. The Catalan Government will rate the candidate’s knowledge of the Catalan language as proof of their residency in Catalonia and integration into Catalan society. The law foresees that integration into society is an element to be taken into account when to renewing residency permits or issuing family grouping certificates or the so called “settlement” certificates, which assess how integrated is a person into the society. Today the Catalan Government also approved a pilot plan to promote the social inclusion of immigrants in L’Hospitalet through definite and specific actions, such as encouraging social interaction and meetings between locals and immigrants in apartment buildings.

The Catalan Government announced that a certain degree of knowledge of the Catalan language will be taken into account to renew residency permits one day after the Catalan statistics centre (CEO) issued the figures of the latest opinion barometer on immigration. The study found that 49.3% of Catalan citizens believe that there is too much immigration. In addition, 25% have very negative visions on immigration and in some cases they could be considered racist. Government Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, pointed out how the figures have demonstrated a worsening trend in the last few years, which coincides with the economic crisis. The Government Spokesperson blamed the previous Left-Wing Government for having been too soft on immigration and “not having a common policy” on the issue. Homs underlined the fact that “seven years without a Government and a clear immigration policy that was well-defined and unique has had logical consequences”.

Homs believes that the opinion poll has given the Catalan Government “the opportunity to make more serious and active immigration policies”. He stated that the current Government will focus more on immigration, will enforce the law approved by the previous administration and will guarantee “immigrant rights” but also will ensure “the fulfilment of their duties”. The Catalan Government wants to encourage the integration and inclusion of immigrants in Catalan society. According to the Executive, the Catalan language can become a tool instead of being a barrier by making its knowledge a “very determining factor” regarding the issuing of immigration certificates. The idea behind it is that if immigrants attain a certain degree of knowledge of the Catalan language, their inclusion and integration into Catalan society will be easier.

Immigration, a shared responsibility

Immigration is a shared responsibility between the Spanish Government, the Autonomous Communities and municipalities. The Spanish Government for instance is responsible for the broader legal framework, regarding entrance requirements. Autonomous Communities and municipalities share responsibility of  social inclusion, such as housing or specific integration programmes. The ‘Welcoming Catalan Law’ was foreseen in the renewed Catalan Statute of Autonomy. It was approved by the previous Catalan Government but now it needs to be enforced through specific rules.

Pilot plans

The Catalan Government also approved a pilot plan to encourage a greater understanding of lifestyles between different immigrant communities and the local population in L’Hospitalet del Llobregat’s neighbourhoods that have a large immigrant population. These pilot plans are also being carried out in Salt, El Vendrell, Badalona and Terrassa. In total they cost 2.5 million euros and they are partially funded through the European Social Fund. L’Hospitalet City Council (a city next to Barcelona) will receive 580,482 euros to implement specific and very concrete measures that aim to encourage social exchange between communities, both between local and immigrant populations but also between immigrant communities of different origins. For instance, some measures will be taken in apartment buildings, attempting to create bonds between neighbours from different communities, and therefore increase social dialogue.