XENOPHOBIA

Migrant community in Murcia on alert, after second racist attack in less than a week

A woman was stabbed while waiting in line for food on Wednesday, just days after a Moroccan man was shot dead by a former soldier

Video: The aftermath of the attack outside a food bank in Cartagena (Murcia) on Wednesday.

The migrant community in the Spanish region of Murcia is on alert after a second racist attack in less than a week. The latest incident took place on Wednesday in the city of Cartagena, when a woman was beaten up while waiting outside a food bank run by the charity organization Cáritas for people at risk of social exclusion. As she stood in line, she was assaulted by another woman who yelled: “Sudaca! They are stealing food from us!” using the derogatory slur for a person from South America.

National Police officers arrested the assailant, who they said was “problematic and well known in the area.” The victim was taken to hospital, where she received treatment for a stab wound that “reached the liver,” according to police sources. These same sources said the victim was out of danger and that they would take her statement “once she has recovered.” The assailant may be charged for “personal injury or attempted manslaughter,” and a hate crime if “the victim finally denounces it as a racist attack,” they said.

According to the Cáritas charity in Cartagena, the victim was a regular at the food bank and often went there with her mother. “That’s not the case for the assailant,” they said, explaining that there was no record that the woman had used the service at the diocese in the city.

The attack in Cartagena comes just days after a Moroccan man was shot at point-blank range in the municipality of Mazarrón. On Sunday, Younes Bilal, 37, was with his friends at the bar El Muelle, when Carlos Patricio B. M., a 52-year-old former soldier, began to hassle the waitress for “speaking with a group of Muslims,” according to Bilal’s family and witnesses at the scene. Bilal then stood up and asked the man “to leave the waitress in peace.”

A tribute to Younes Bilal, who was murdered by a former soldier on Sunday.
A tribute to Younes Bilal, who was murdered by a former soldier on Sunday.pedro martínez

The Bilal family’s lawyer told EL PAÍS that the 37-year-old walked over to Carlos Patricio B. M., and “asked for his respect.” After the confrontation, which took place at around 10pm, the former soldier left the establishment on foot. According to sources from the investigation, the 52-year-old returned around “20 minutes later” having reportedly changed clothes. Bilal’s family said that the former soldier walked over to Bilal, pointed a gun at him and said: “Let’s see if you have the balls to stand up now.” When Bilal stood up Carlos Patricio B. M. shot him three times point-blank in the chest. The 37-year-old died early Monday morning from the injuries. The ex-soldier was arrested on Wednesday and is accused of “murder and possession of weapons,” according to sources from the investigation.

Bilal had been living in Spain for more than 20 years. He was married to a Spanish woman and had adopted her two children, who he had raised since they were infants.

Government response

The local government response to the attacks has been slow and lackluster. The far-right Vox was the most-voted party in Murcia at the 2019 general election, and the region is governed by the conservative Popular Party (PP), with support from Vox.

It was not until Thursday that the Murcia regional assembly issued an institutional statement condemning “the racist murder of Younes Bilal [...] motivated by racist prejudices that are intolerable in a democratic society.” The document also criticized “the hate discourse promoted by a xenophobic far right, whose effects the region is already tragically suffering from.”

This statement was signed by all political parties in the regional government, including Vox. But this is not an accurate reflection of the party’s position, as three of its four deputies in Murcia no longer support the far-right group.

Meanwhile, the Association of Moroccan Migrant Workers (ATIM) expressed on Wednesday its “indignation, outrage and pain” at the murder of Bilal, which the ATIM linked to the recent tension over the migrant crisis in the North African city of Ceuta, where thousands of people were allowed to breach the Spanish territory from Morocco.

With reporting by Patricia Ortega Dolz.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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