Immigrants on hunger strike in Barcelona

Five members of 500-strong group of immigrants who have locked themselves inside various churches and buildings since the weekend had to receive medical attention today. The immigrants have been on hunger strike since Saturday to protest at what they call the unbending rules laid down by the Government in order for illegal workers to legalise their their situation in Spain.

Nearly 500 men from countries in Eastern Europe, North Africa, Asia and South America have squeezed into 5 small buildings and are expected to occupy a sixth today. They say they will continue their hunger strike until they are allowed to put forward their case to the Government’s Delegate in Catalonia (each autonomous region in Spain has a Delegado del Gobierno. This post is political, and the delegates job is to represent national government within that region).

The immigrants argue that the need to include a contract and a certificate from their home authorities showing that they have no criminal record in their application for legal residence in Spain, means that thousands of immigrants will be left out of the three months given to them by the Government to legalise their situation.

The fact that most of them have clandestine employment under employers who are unwilling (or “unable” as the protesters diplomatically put it) to meet the extra expenses (mostly national insurance payments) involved in legal contracts, means that many of them are unable to present a contract even if they have been living and working in Spain for years. They also allege that many of them travelled to Spain from small, poor countries whose unstable governments or lack of diplomatic respresentation in Spain makes it impossible for them to obtain the certificate required by the Spanish authorities to prove that they have no criminal record in their native country.

We have received some messages from immigrants in Spain over the past month raising the same problems. Examples can be read in the comments of the articles below. It will be interesting to see how (or if) the government will react to the protest being organised in Barcelona, and also whether or not the Catalan protest will trigger off other ones elsewhere in Spain.

Legalisation of immigrants in Spain
New immigration law in Spain
Reform of Spanish immigration laws