Spanish far-right party Vox campaigns on illegal immigration using manipulated data

A spokesman for the party attacked a proposal to outlaw hate speech in electoral discourse as an ‘attack on free speech’ after misinterpreting figures on crime in Catalonia

Vox leader Santiago Abascal with supporters at a pre-election rally in Oviedo on April 15.Europa Press (Europa Press)

Encouraging fear of illegal immigration and linking it to social insecurity has become the banner of Spanish far-right party Vox ahead of municipal elections scheduled for May 28. “They want to prohibit any speech that links crime with illegal immigration,” vice-president and party spokesman Jorge Buxadé said Monday, alluding to a proposal in the Catalan regional parliament, presented by the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), to outlaw “hateful and intolerant speeches” that incite discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ideology, or language. Vox has described the proposal as “an attack on freedom of speech” and has said that it will appeal to the Constitutional Court if it is approved. “Illegal immigration, by its own definition, is a crime,” said Buxadé. “By the mere fact of entering Spanish national territory illegally, they are breaking the law.”

Buxadé is a state attorney, so he knows the difference between criminals — those who commit crimes — and illegal immigrants, whose actions only constitute administrative offenses. It does not appear to have been a slip of the tongue: he went on to say “in 2021, 48.8% of all criminal offenses in Catalonia, 72.2% of violent robberies and 51.1% of sexual assaults with penetration were committed by foreigners.” Although it was not possible to ask Buxadé for clarification of those figures (EL PAÍS and many other media outlets have been banned from Vox press conferences), he had not correctly compiled the Ministry of the Interior data as the examples he provided do not refer to the region of Catalonia but to the city of Barcelona and, above all, they do not allude to criminal offenses but to detainees. According to statistics for the whole of Spain, in 2021 foreigners accounted for 24.7% of people convicted of crimes, accounting for 24.9% of the violent robberies and 28.3% of sexual assaults.

This is not the first time Vox has based a campaign on manipulated data. The party’s candidate in Madrid, Rocío Monasterio, has resurrected a controversial campaign poster from the 2021 regional elections that compared the €426 that constitutes the pension allowance for some widows in Spain with the €4,700 that each unaccompanied foreign minor costs the state. “We fell short. Today we have found out that [Popular Party regional premier of Madrid Isabel Díaz] Ayuso pays €13,000 per month for every unaccompanied foreign minor,” Monasterio said on April 14. This figure was published in La Gaceta de la Iberosfera, Vox’s media mouthpiece, which misinterpreted the data arising from a tender signed by the regional government of Madrid to host 26 “unaccompanied migrant children or adolescents with adaptation difficulties or behavioral problems.” The budget for the contract was set at €4 million (including taxes) for a period of 24 months. La Gaceta de la Iberosfera cited the expected cost if the contract was extended for another two years but divided it by 24 months instead of 48, thus doubling the real amount.

Vox's controversial 2021 campaign poster.
Vox's controversial 2021 campaign poster.PODEMOS (Europa Press)

Vox’s electoral program for the municipal elections states that “the policy of open borders, imposed by the elites, has imported violence and insecurity, destroying the identity of our neighborhoods and demonstrating that multicultural societies are multi-conflictive.” In Buxadé's opinion: “Spaniards are forced to coexist in their neighborhoods with cultures that are incompatible with Western cultures.”

With regard to the security of citizens, Vox has proposed measures that have nothing to do with the issue, such as the closure of centers used to house foreign minors and their “immediate” repatriation (something which is impossible if their country of origin refuses to admit them), preventing illegal immigrants from registering with the Spanish authorities (this denying them access to health care and education) and “the establishment of national priority” to obtain social aid and subsidized housing, which is also discriminatory against non-Spaniards who hold legal residency.

Vox has also proposed changes to the National Defense Law to include tackling illegal immigration in the remit of the Armed Forces and to strip Spanish nationality from citizens who were not born in Spain if they are sentenced for committing serious crimes. The far-right party has also demanded that Moroccans who cannot prove they have renounced Moroccan citizenship be prohibited from obtaining a Spanish passport: which, in practice, means denying them access to citizenship as Rabat refuses to deregister them. On the other hand, Vox has said nothing about similar measures for anyone holding, for example, U.S. or British passports in addition to a Spanish one.

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