Spain’s National Security Council warns xenophobia is on the rise

Agency says more funding is needed to support migrant integration, given the growing number of arrivals

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presiding over a meeting with the National Security Council.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presiding over a meeting with the National Security Council.Fernando Calvo

Spain’s National Security Council has warned that xenophobia is on the rise in Spain. In a report, approved on March 15, the council found that while “Spaniards’ attitude on immigration continues to be more welcoming” than the European average, there has been a “slight drop in the positive trend” in recent years.

National Security Council report

The report sees the need for a strategy, backed by public and private institutions, to support migrant integration in Spain, and adds that more state funding should be put toward this goal. The document also recommends reviewing the overall strategy on fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. The National Security Council adds that a new survey must be done on how Spanish people feel toward migrants, given the apparent rise in xenophobic sentiment.

“We have to launch programs and specific strategic actions to educate society on the positive effects of immigration and the positive value of diversity, while avoiding and counteracting xenophobic discourses,” the report explains.

According to the National Security Council, these programs should include initiatives to encourage media professionals to learn about “immigration and its positive aspects and develop a respectful and favorable attitude toward social diversity.”

While the report does not mention the far-right political party Vox, which has surged in popularity, it does warn that the “appearance of populist movements in several European countries” is a risk to the stability of the European Union.

Undocumented migrants in Spain

The report argues that “the illegal trafficking of migrants is one of the greatest threats to national and international security.” In 2018, Spain became the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with arrivals jumping 161.7%. Last year, 64,421 undocumented migrants arrived in Spain and, “although work is being done to stop this upward trend [...], everything indicates the figures will be higher in 2019,” the report says.

To address this issue, the National Security Council says that Spain must collaborate with Morocco and Algeria, and “close the Atlantic route [with] the cooperation of Mauritania and Senegal.” The document recommends supporting the security forces in these countries so that they can control their borders, and helping the countries to access EU funds.

In 2018, Spain became the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with arrivals jumping 161.7%

According to statistics from the Interior Ministry presented in the report, most undocumented migrants who arrived in 2018 were Moroccan (13,041), Guinean (6,113), Malian (5,762) and Algerian (4,693). The number of migrants from Mali, the only sub-Saharan country that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited as Spain’s leader, increased nearly ninefold between 2017 and 2018.

The number of unaccompanied minors also jumped, rising 162% in 2018 to 13,796, with most arriving in Andalusia, Catalonia and Melilla, a Spanish exclave city in North Africa. In 2017, 97% of unaccompanied minors were men and half of them were from Morocco.

Requests for asylum and other applications for international protection also rose, increasing by 75% in 2018 to 55,668. The highest number of requests came from Venezuelans, with applications nearly doubling from 10,629 to 20,015 in just one year.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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