The Madrid Provincial Court on Monday struck down an appeal against a campaign poster targeting unaccompanied migrant minors that was put up by the far-right party Vox ahead of the Madrid regional election on May 4.
The sign, which was posted on April 20 in Madrid’s busy Sol Cercanías commuter train station, used the term mena, the Spanish acronym for an unaccompanied foreign migrant minor, which is often employed to negatively portray children and teenagers who have arrived in Spain without their families.
It read: “€4,700 a month for a mena. €426 a month for your grandmother’s pension” – numbers that were incorrect – and featured images of an elderly woman and a young man wearing a bandana over his face. “Protect Madrid. Vote for safety,” was written in smaller print at the bottom.
The public prosecution filed a complaint that was backed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) asking for the sign to be removed as a precautionary measure. It argued that the poster sought to “transmit a prejudicial image” of foreign migrants by presenting them as “hooded and masked” in order to associate them with criminals.
The poster can be interpreted as an election message to a collective that is much larger than ‘menas’Court document
But the Madrid Provincial Court ruled that the sign was an “election slogan” and did not present ideas that should be “prohibited,” when there were others “just as critical or worse than these.” In the court document, to which EL PAÍS has had access, the judges stated that “independently of whether the figures offered are true or not, [foreign migrants] represent an evident social and political problem, with consequences and effects on our international relations, as is well-known. "
The judges added that “the poster can be interpreted as an election message to a collective that is much larger than menas, in which a visual and direct criticism is presented on the value of a pension compared to the cost of maintaining these young people.”
The court document found that Vox’s campaign poster was “within the context of a legitimate ideological and party struggle.” “The emission of certain ideas does not need to be branded as a crime, unless their goal is to threaten, injure or belittle,” the document stated. “Even if it is critical, it is legitimate if it is expressed in a way that does not pursue such illicit goals.”
The judges also said the poster was protected by freedom of expression and the “plurality of a democratic country,” citing the case against Guillermo Zapata, a city councilor for the leftist party Ahora Madrid, who was acquitted after being accused of humiliating the victims of terrorism and the Holocaust on Twitter.
In April, a lower court in Madrid also filed a case against Vox’s poster on charges of a possible hate crime. The judge ruled that “the direct language” of the signs “did not create a situation of danger.”
Fewer than 300 foreign migrants in Madrid
Vox has a hardline stance against immigration and often raises the question of how much taking care of unaccompanied migrant minors costs the state. In Madrid, around 3,700 minors are under the care of the regional government, and of this figure, approximately 29% are foreigners. But fewer than 300 of this number are unaccompanied foreign migrants, according to the regional government’s own figures.
The Madrid regional election was won by Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party (PP), who was able to take office with the votes of Vox’s deputies. But during the campaign, Díaz Ayuso sought to distance herself from Vox’s anti-immigration rhetoric. In an interview with the Cadena SER radio network, she said: “There will be menas who are criminals and many more who are not, and the crime is just as important if it is committed by someone of Spanish origin or from outside the country.” In the only campaign debate she attended, the PP leader said: “We have to integrate [foreign migrants], out of charity and because we are obliged to.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.