Education - "We were studying in the school x, one day we were accused of stealing 50€. This happens often, they always think that the maghrebins are thieves. From this incident, we were expelled from the school, in order to expel us they convinced our families to sign a document. However, our fathers and mothers did not understand the language and had to sign without a present translator. This document was therefore signed without knowledge and understanding of what they had signed for. Now we are no longer able to attend school anymore. We are over 16 years therefore it is not longer a requirement to be in education. Furthermore, we no longer have the opportunity to follow this course in any other center." - male, 17 and 18 years
That is one answer of one of children from youth center to the questions "Were you a victim of racism here in Manresa? And which kind of racism were you confronted with?" my supervisors asked them. The actual reason for these interviews was that my collegues and I tried to stress the extent of racial discrimation in Manresa, which is visible in all areas in life, towards the city council. With the hope that they will change something about the situation with the help of their power. As in our youth center nearly all teenagers have a migrant background, whereas the majority is from Marrocco, we had the perfect opportunity to get first hand experiences.
Public institutions — "I went to the city hall to be registered and we were asked about a number of documents which I didn't understand. I then went a second time there with my brother since I was unable to speak the language yet and I was told that I couldn't be registered in my flat, because there have already been too many people registered, but in reality it's my house and actually only my brother and I are living there." - male, 32 years
Police officers — "I attended an event in Manresa that was made by Manrussiònica with my friends. Suddenly, the Mossos d'Esquadra came and started registering me in front of everyone, they demanded my NIE (identification number for foreigners), to which I gave them. They looked for me in the register and sore that there was no entry under my name. This led them to start talking to me in an aggressive manner. I was then told to leave the event. They threatened me, called me names and I was unable to defend myself." - male, 17 years
- "The national police once came to us and began to request our documents. I had them with me and gave it to them. However my friend had an expired NIE and was waiting to renew their papers. As he didn't have it with him, they detained him and gave him two weeks to leave the country." - male, 20 years. In this case my friend's mother and siblings live in Manresa, which means they will be separated.
- “There has been a number of occasions where I have been walking down the street and whilst passing police, they begin to instantly start registering us. The majority of the time, they treat us with no respect and use racial insults like: fucking dark skins, go to your country, you have come here due to trafficking." - male, 22 years
Public places - "Most of the time, I am alone or with my friends when walking the streets of Manresa. I find that when I am walking the locals from Manresa often change to the opposite sides of the street to avoid being near me. If I am using transport such as busses or trains, I notice that people move there possessions away from me and my friends as they think we are going to take their belongings." - female, 18 years
- "When there were sexual assaults that happened in Manresa, many people blame us, just for the fact we are maghrebins and are living in the area. Our religion also prohibits such assaults, which means we have the same set of morals as anyone else, that this kind of act is wrong. I found that When I attended the demonstration with the rest of the teenagers, people were looking at me with disgust as though I had no right to be there." - female, 18 years
Nightclubs - “ Often I have tried to get into the nightclub x and had been denied by security just because me and my friends are maghrebins. Each time we try to enter, they give us a different excuse for prohibiting us to enter the club. The one time we was able to enter the club a fight broke out. Even though we was not involved in the fight we were blamed because we are maghrebins. This incident has stopped us from ever entering the club again." - male, 20 years
- “I went to the nightclub x and as I stepped outside of the club the doormen came to me and explained that a mobile phone had been stolen in the club. For no reason and no proof they refused me re-entry that night. On another occasion I returned to the club with my friend where we were in the club car park leaning on a car. Whilst in the car park my friend was assaulted by a female, my friend then retaliated by pushing back. The nightclub owner had heard what had happened and came out and told the perpetrator to report it to the police. When the police arrived, they were told that I have stolen a phone last week, while completely ignoring the reason for the phone call. They started to begin a police check on me. When they found nothing they told me that they will continue researching until they found the phone and let me go.“ - male, 20 years
- “I am 13 years old, I have always lived in Manresa and usually don’t have any problems with the locals of Manresa. But on one occasion I was sitting on the sidewalk of the street opposite my house and an elderly couple approached me. They asked me why I was sitting there and not leaving. I explained to them that I was waiting for a friend and that I wasn’t leaving until my friend arrives. A short time after, I noticed water from above falling on me but then I realised that it wasn’t water, it was bleach.“ - male, 13 years
(These quotes were not translated word by word from the catalan to the english language, rather by their content)
These are just some examples which show that there is an urgent problem of racism under different sectors in institution such as (municipal services and the public sector), in nightclubs based on race and class and within the different police bodies. Furthermore, beside the fact that most of them are illegal, they clearly show an abuse of power and superiority in the society. To no surprise, these experiences led to the teenagers feeling insecure, humiliated and an unstable mind. Gladly, I have experienced any of the racism presented above whilst living in Manresa, since doing my volunteering here as a black Muslim woman. I personally don’t understand why people are trying to exclude the majority of the immigration, the maghrebins, instead of integrating them into the Catalan and Spanish society. I can only assume that it may be down to bad past experiences, which has led all people to be categorised into one. Around the world crime is the norm, but why is racism seen against foreigners and not against “natives“? My experience with the moroccan people in the youth center has shown me that they are just trying to adapt and integrate themselves into society as much as possible but how can that be that be easy with the majority of the locals being against you?
On the basis of these events, my colleagues have felt the need to stand up against the racism in Manresa and propose their findings to the city council order to try make a change. For instance, there could be an obligatory anti racial training for the those working in the city council or in the public sector like the local police, library voluntary training for the public if they were interested. Additionally, security forces should be encourage to comply the regulations in order to prevent abuse of power and that bodies should be reported publicly when acting in a racial manner such as repeated identifications and records, juvenile records without the presence of their guardian, follow-ups and persecutions, unjustified allegations, intimidation and threats. Besides, campaigns raising awareness of racism in Manresa and reviewing complaints about racial attitudes in nightclubs and providing a training for the owners are some other solutions.
To put it in a nutshell, I was really shocked how deep and cruel the racism is here as the situation with the immigrants is similar to the refugees back in Germany, a country with a long history of immigrants, wherefore accusation of foreigners in negative incidents as sexual assaults wasn’t something new to me. But excluding a specific group in any kind of manner, that is something I would never expected. Therefore, I appreciate the possibility to do these European voluntary service. Maybe because I was lucky to have never fallen a victim of such a ‚strong‘ racism or maybe my environment has a different mindset.
Articles and futher links:
Sources: Interviews done by my collegues and me in catalan/ spanish language