Catalonia has declared not war on “migrants,” but war on the sector of their economy which makes up 12% of their wealth, which is from tourism and tourists:
Early last year, around 150,000 people in Barcelona marched to demand that the Spanish government allow more refugees into the country. Shortly afterwards, “Tourists go home, refugees welcome” started appearing on the city’s walls; soon the city was inundated with protestors marching behind the slogans “Barcelona is not for sale” and “We will not be driven out”.
What the Spanish media dubbed turismofobia overtook several European cities last summer, with protests held and measures taken in Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, Florence, Berlin, Lisbon, Palma de Mallorca and elsewhere in Europe against the invasion of visitors. But in contrast to many, as fiercely as Barcelona has pushed back against tourists, it has campaigned to welcome more refugees. When news broke two weeks ago that a rescue ship carrying 629 migrants was adrift in the Mediterranean, mayor Ada Colau was among the first to offer those aboard safe haven.
Is it really the case that Barcelona would prefer to receive thousands of penniless immigrants rather than the millions of tourists who last year spent around €30bn in the city? The short answer, it appears, is yes. Increasingly it is tourism, not immigration, that people see as a threat to the city’s very identity – though numbers of both have risen exponentially in recent decades.
In 2000 foreigners accounted for less than 2% of the population; a mere five years later, the figure was 15% (266,000). In 2018, it is now officially 18% although, according to Lola López, the city’s integration and immigration commissioner, the true figure is closer to 30%.
The influx of new residents has radically changed the face of the city, but Barcelona has not seen a single anti-immigrant protest of any substance – nor is immigration an issue at local elections.
According to research by Paolo Giaccaria, a social scientist at the University of Turin, the case of Barcelona “establishes a connection between two types of mobility that are at odds with each other: northern tourism and southern migration. It subverts the common feeling about which kind of mobility is desirable which is not.”
Immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilising it – and even people in the industry agree that it can’t go on like this. In 1990 the city received 1.7 million tourists; last year the figure was 32 million – roughly 20 times the resident population. The sheer volume of visitors is driving up rents, pushing residents out of neighbourhoods, and overwhelming the public space.
“We see immigration as having a positive impact – people have integrated well,” says Natalia Martínez, a councillor in Ciutat Vella, the old part of Barcelona which has been at the forefront of both immigration and tourism. “It’s brought more than it’s taken away in terms of identity.”
Her colleague Santi Ibarra argues that the diversity that comes with immigration enhances the city – but tourism contributes nothing positive. “Tourism takes something out of neighbourhoods,” he says. “It makes them more banal – the same as everywhere else.”
Like London, the number of native Barcelonans is quite small, especially in working class neighbourhoods, which is where most of the latest wave of immigrants have made their homes. The three largest groups of immigrants are Europeans, Latin Americans and North Africans, mainly from Morocco, as well as significant Chinese and Pakistani populations – though López says that Barcelona has its own identity, distinct from that of Catalonia or Spain. “We’ve found that children born here of immigrant or mixed couples tend to identify themselves as being from Barcelona, rather than anywhere else.”
The main obstacle to integration is language, especially as schooling is in Catalan, which none of the immigrants speak. Magda Martí is a headteacher in a primary school in Ciutat Vella, where more than half the children are foreigners and says that, along with language barrier, food can also be an issue. The city council requires the school to provide a halal meal option if only one family requests it; Martí says this is tricky, not only logistically but ideologically for a non-religious school.
However, she adds: “To me it’s all the same where a child is from, the important thing is to make them and their families welcome. The really positive change is in the new teachers, who don’t see immigration as a problem. They see diversity as something positive, which is how I see it, too.”
The neighbourhood where immigration is most visible is El Raval (from the Arabic, meaning suburb), which lies on the opposite side of La Rambla from Ciutat Vella, and has long been synonymous with drugs and prostitution. Until quite recently it was known as Barri Xinès (Chinatown), though there were no Chinese people there – a reflection of its perceived otherness. These days it’s nicknamed Ravalstan for its sizeable Pakistani population.
Oscar Esteban, director of the Fundació Tot Raval, an umbrella group that coordinates a wide range of voluntary and statutory organisations in the area, compares el Raval to the east London borough of Tower Hamlets: both historically port neighbourhoods, and for centuries the point of entry to the city. (Similarly, life expectancy in El Raval is five to six years less than in the city’s more salubrious areas.)
“El Raval has its own identity and its own way of dealing with things,” says Esteban. “Everything starts here, many social phenomena appear here first and then spread; we’re a social laboratory. There’s a massive level of immigration here but on a day-to-day level there’s no conflict, not even after the terror attack last summer.”
Thirteen people died and over 130 were injured in the van attack on La Rambla in August last year. Mohammed Halhoul, the foundation’s president and a member of the Catalan Islamic Council, says that afterwards people were “shocked and indignant, but everyone came together to condemn it”.
Halhoul – who came to Barcelona from Morocco in 1990 – attributes the lack of a backlash against the Muslim community to broad political consensus on immigration, and the city’s strong network of community associations. “There are isolated cases but when it comes to racism or Islamophobia, we don’t see it as a problem,” he says. “It’s not something we lose any sleep over.”
Of course racism exists in Barcelona inasmuch as it does in any other city – but it has not been allowed to fester. Since 2010 the council has pursued a intercultural policy (as opposed to assimilation) to recognise and respect cultural and religious differences that has enjoyed widespread support, and immigrants have not been scapegoated despite years of economic hardship.
But if they have succeeded in escaping a backlash, tourists have not – even though tourism accounts for around 12% of Barcelona’s GDP, and many residents’ jobs depend on it.
“There’s no question that a lot of people here live off tourism, but it can’t be a case of anything goes – there have to be limits,” says Esteban. “We’re losing much of the identity of the centre of the city, the port, the very traditions that attract visitors.
After 20 years of city authorities flogging Barcelona to visitors from overseas, the council elected in 2015 has moved to put the needs of citizens above those of visitors. It imposed a moratorium on new hotels, made efforts to contain the spread of tourist apartments and devised an urban plan for Ciutat Vella that prioritises local commerce over businesses aimed at tourists.
Albert Recio, a spokesman for the Barcelona Federation of Residents Associations representing around 100 bodies, says the dizzying rise of city breaks has had a significant impact on housing, with landlords choosing to make easy money renting to tourists, rather than residents and driving up rents in the process.
Public services are also feeling the strain. “People who live near the popular tourist spot of Park Güell can’t get on the bus because it’s full of tourists,” Recio says. “And many traditional businesses that have existed for over 100 years have been driven out.”
Barcelona is not alone in its battle to protect its identity, with many European cities being overwhelmed by skyrocketing tourism fuelled by cheap flights and platforms such as Airbnb. According to the Association of British Travel Agents, 53% of British holidays in 2017 were city breaks compared to 41% beach holidays.
Antipathy has reached especial heights in Venice, which last month erected barriers in an attempt to control crowds. “In Venice people hate tourists, especially the cruiseships – the worst kind of tourism,” says Patrizia Riganti, who teaches at the school of architecture at Nottingham Trent University and has researched the impact of immigration and tourism in Amsterdam and Venice. “They pollute the city, and consume it as though they were eating a sandwich, what in Italian we call ‘mordi e fuggi tourism’: literally, take a bite and run.
“As in Barcelona, the presence of tourists in Venice and the competition for services far outweigh any perceived problems about immigrants who, thanks partly to tourism, can’t afford to live there anyway,” says Riganti. (source)
Pay close attention to the parts I have highlighted.
Tourism is big money for any country. Whether it is the fat American waddling with his American flag fanny pack strapped to his “I (heart) Paris” T-shirt, the asexual looking German man in his early 40s wearing neo-modern clothing with his equally asexual looking live-in girlfriend for the last 15 years on “holiday”, or the hordes of short, bespeckled Japanese chattering silently with their large cameras who take pictures of anything that moves, tourists may be strange or frustrating but speak with their wallets and turn would-be economic deserts into oases for the services industry to thrive. From ancient ruins of former civilizations to modern metropoli, tourist dollars are a net gain for any economy because the money which tourists spend comes from another location (such as the USA, Germany, or Japan), and transfers directly to the local population without returning to the place which it originated from. It is an absolute net gain for the businesses and a net loss for the tourists.
This is the reason why most countries frequently tolerate so much foolish behavior from tourists, and when tourists do violate a law, governments may ban the tourist from returning but do not want to do so in a way to discourage other tourists from coming. The money transfer that comes from tourists is such a financial gain that it would be foolish to threaten it.
Catalonia is the wealthiest area of Spain, but the fact that it early 1 out out of every 8 of its dollars from tourism means that tourism is a major industry and to threaten its survival would be incredibly stupid. It would be equivalent to asking one’s boss for a salary decrease of the same amount. A 12% increase in a man’s wage- regarddless of what he earns- is a large wage increase. Likewise, so is a 12% decrease a large decline and would likely force the person to reduce his expenses on things he enjoys in order to be able to continue paying his bills.
Now consider the refugee “crisis.” These refugees into Europe are an absolute net loss to income. This has been documented since the crisis began in 2015. These “refugees”- of which there are over one million now in Europe- for the most part do not want to and have shown little motivation to learn the languages of their host nations they have been brought or allowed to enter. They have few to no advanced degrees, and many are functionally illiterate in their own languages. They cannot do anything other than the most basic of tasks, and they are unable to work to provide for food, water, a living space, electricity, and other necessary amenities (such a car and gas or in most cities, a bus fare). Having been given near unlimited welfare, as with all peoples who become accustomed to continual welfare without a direction or a strong desire to work at a task, indolence and sloth has been encouraged in them, which has r resulted in an explosion of crime and filth wherever they go.
The European people have come to hate the refugees because of this, for they see them as invading hordes who care nothing for the societies they have been invited into. There is something to be said for this, because many really do not care about their host country except for the welfare benefits, and they are not afraid to say this with their words and actions:
There are many videos like this. It is well recognized that many of the people coming are “economic migrants” and not true refugees. Videos like this understandable anger many people of good will who supported the refugees without realizing the larger plan for which they are being used.
However, that said, there is a larger picture.
In 2009, Bernard Connolly of the European Commission said that the European Union would attempt to use “global crises” to vault Europe into a place of prominence on the world stage. This was a theory that in part was put forth by Harvard Professor Alberto Alesina, who is also a participant in the Bilderberg Group:
The refugee crisis is one of these attempts that has been proven so, for the “migration” taking place would not have been able to happen without the governments of Europe with American help engaging in a direct population transfer of people from the Middle East and Africa so brazenly that the smuggling has been set up on Facebook.
Adding to it the fact that the people were being allowed in without any screening process, it would encourage criminals or nations who wanted to empty their prisons to send such people to Europe, and as such as been reinforced by Germany’s refusal to prosecute migrants even when the commit obvious and horrible crimes.
Since a great part of the crisis has taken place in Germany, the German government and her allies in Brussels and Vienna have used it to boost nationalism that is now being leveraged to support militarism. This has nothing to do with “stopping the migrants”, but about justifying a return to war, specifically against Russia by Germany with her Ottoman ally, Turkey.
The people who are being most abused in this entire situation are the common people- European and refugee alike- as they are being used as pawns in a game of geopolitics that is manipulating historical disputes and controversies in order to bring Europe once again to war.
Catalonia is an important ally to Germany as the separation from Spain by Catalonia is a part of the fragmentation of Europe in the name of nationalism that will help precipitate another major war. Catalonia is being directly aided by Germany, who is encouraging the separation and is even protecting Catalan leaders from the Spanish government.
Germany was behind the “refugee crisis.” If she made it so in order to destabilize her own nation for the purpose of encouraging militancy, and if Catalonia is following Germany’s lead, then it makes sense why the tourism industry is being replaced with refugees, because just as Germany is destroying herself, so will Catalonia be destroyed until the society is forced to financial austerity at such a point that in the name of “helping” the nation, military intervention against her can be applied, at which time it is to be expected that Germany, having rebuild her military as she is doing right now and proclaimed that she will have to go “alone” in Europe, will be “ready” to “help” Catalonia.
No country with a sane mind attacks tourists, especially if they constitute a large part of the economy. They are either complete idiots, or there is a deeper plan in operation.
The Catalonians are not fools. Neither is her German ally. There is a deeper plan to this, because in the course of rebuilding an empire and engaging in a major war, while the money which tourism brings in constitutes a substantial economic segment, the profits to be earned from war and the spoils of war are almost always far greater.
As far as the refugees are concerned, none care about them. They will be inevitably blamed for any dysfunction that follows. That is not to deny the legitimate, real, and serious disorder that has come from them, but to note that they are being allowed to engage in anti-social behavior in order that Germany and her allies can engage in war, which is even worse. The violence of the Muslims is obvious, but the violence Germany is planning, in accordance with her past history, will surely be worse that even what happened in the Second World War.