Refugees Debate in Spain: From Hotspot to Side Stage

Spain, 07 Aug - 04 Sep 2015
Refugees Debate in Spain ++ World Politics meet Spanish reggae festival ++ A successful holiday’s season for the tourism sector. by José M. Martin-Flores, Marco Just Quiles
Refugees Debate in Spain

The dramatic stream of refugees to the European Union has been dominating the Spanish press coverage this summer. Nevertheless, unlike in many northern European countries, the debate triggers far less contested emotions and concerns among the population. This is because Spain is barely affected by the latest mass migration dynamics. Spain has turned from a migration hot spot to a side stage.

There are three basic reasons:
First, the current concentration of refugees and migrants crossing the eastern Mediterranean to take the so-called Balkan route has revoked Spain’s role as one of the most important gateways to Europe. Particularly refugees from Syria seem to rather choose the shorter route to Greece or southeast Europe.

Second, former Spanish main entry points for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the enclave cities Ceuta and Melilla, have become highly secured fortresses. With the help of Moroccan and Mauretania authorities, Spain reduced the number of informal border crossing attempts from several thousand in 2014 to around hundred per month. Climbing the border fences has become barely impossible.

Third, the lack of job opportunities and the long waits for asylum requests are major reasons why Spain seems not be the destination of choice for many refugees, particularly from Syria. In 2014, Spain accepted all 1.681 Syrians who asked for admission, while at the same time Germany received almost 24.000 asylum requests, and Sweden more than 16.000.

Despite the present low influx of refugees and migrants, the Spanish society will pursue the topic attentively. On the one hand, migrant flows could re-increase particularly via the Mediterranean if the Balkan route becomes less accessible. On the other hand, taking into account the current political debate about an integrated pan-European distribution system of refugees, Spain will likely receive much more requests in the future. For now Spain belongs in absolute as well as relative terms to the countries of the European Union that hosts the smallest number of refugees.

World Politics meet Spanish reggae festival

The Spanish ‘Rototom Sunsplash’ reggae festival in the Province of Valencia has made headlines around the world. The Jewish American reggae singer Matisyahu was first banned to perform his planned concert because he refused to make a public statement on his position concerning Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. The cancellation drew protest from Jewish groups around the world.

The grammy-nominated Matisyahu declared that the organisers contacted him as a result from exerted pressures on behalf of a local branch of the BDS movement (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel). The controversy exacerbated until reaching higher political circles. Following protests of the Israeli and the US embassies in Madrid, the Spanish government and several political parties pushed to reverse the decision.

The event organisers found themselves constrained to re-invite Matisyahu declaring that the festival rejects any form of anti-Semitism. Matisyahu performed appreciating the worldwide support from fans and organisations. The BDS movement is a global campaign that started to act in 2005 increasing pressures on the Israeli government to change its Palestine policy.

A successful holiday season for the tourism sector

Spain continues being one of the favorite destinations for Europeans when they think about relaxing and enjoying their time off away from their workplaces. According to the Spanish tourism organisation (turespaña) July 2015 has been the best July in history in terms of foreign tourist’s arrivals with 8.8 million people. The most visited regions have been the typical summer destinations such as Catalonia, Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Valencia and Andalusia. Besides, after some years facing a drop in the number of visitors, Madrid has managed to regain its touristic attractiveness receiving 26.7% more visitors than last year.

As usual, the UK was the first source market with roughly 2 million people followed by France and Germany. The most surprising figure is the sharp increase in the number US citizens that have chosen Spain for their vacations. The arrivals of US citizens in Spain have increased by 40.5% compared to July 2014. Likewise, the economic recovery that the country is experiencing has encouraged Spaniards to travel more within the country. Although there are not yet official figures in this respect, the surveys conducted by the sector foresee a notorious increase of around 9% in the number of Spanish people travelling during the holiday’s season.

The main reasons of these great figures are the incipient economic recovery of the country and the lower living costs in Spain compared to the source countries. Moreover, the increase of the violence and terrorist activity in North African countries has also been an important factor for travelers to look for safer destinations.

Source: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson | CC BY 2.0

Sevilla, Spain

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