Catalonia will require immigrants to learn language

Announcement comes a day after poll reveals half of local population believes there are too many foreigners

The Catalan government plans to attach more importance to the extent of immigrants' knowledge of the Catalan language in deciding whether or not illegal incomers can qualify for residence certificates.

Catalan government spokesman Francesc Holms said the government, which is controlled by the center-right CiU nationalist coalition, considers knowledge of Catalan to be a "very important requirement" for residency in the region.

Holms did not say how the government plans to test immigrants' knowledge of Catalan or what constitutes an acceptable level.

Racist sentiment

Holms was speaking a day after the release of a survey by the CEO opinion poll organization that showed almost half of the 1,600 Catalonia residents polled believe there are "too many" immigrants, while a quarter are radically opposed to immigration.

"The study shows there is a hard core of about 25 percent of the population that could be categorized as culturally racist or clearly intolerant about immigration," CEO director Jordi Argelaguet said.

Under current regulations, the Catalan government may issue certificates to immigrants that verify they have acquired sufficient awareness of Catalan society. The non-binding certificate is normally issued after they receive courses organized by the regional government in which the Catalan language is currently only one element.

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