Vic town council norms to stop sans papiers becoming residents withdrawn
Following opposition from trade unions, migrant and anti-racist groups and social organisations, and the intervention of the central government, the town council of Vic (Catalunya) has withdrawn a norm that amended the criteria for registration in the residents' register (padrón) which excluded irregular migrants, as it would not have allowed foreigners to register unless they had a valid residence permit or could offer proof that procedures for it to be issued or renewed were underway. The town council, run by a three-party alliance (PSC, the Catalan branch of the Socialist Party; CiU, Convergencia i Unió; and ERC, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya), unveiled the measure at the start of the year, arguing that it sought to impose respect for the law, and to impose "security, whereas irregular situations can promote criminal activities", and to allow the town to "digest" the large-scale arrival of migrants, claimed the PSC and ERC spokesmen. Opponents of the measure highlighted that the measure contravenes obligatory registration in the padrón of people living in a town's territory that is required by the 1995 law on the functioning of local authorities (Ley de Bases de Régimen Local). They claim that the measure will generate further exclusion and illegality, as well as denying people their rights, particularly insofar as registration is required for people to exercise the right to education and health care, and for councils to organise their services on the basis of accurate data. It was dropped after weeks of opposition by groups that described the measure as "racist" and "discriminatory", and criticised it for using a register that is meant to help local authorities organise social services for "social control" purposes [see the press statements of SOS Racisme and of a coalition of associations and trade unions]. There was also criticism from the government, which instructed the state attorney's office to examine the measure. Vic council finally accepted to withdraw the norm as advised by the state attorney's office report.
Nonetheless, it was critical of the decision, arguing that it will increase the flow of migrants and cause "more deaths in dinghies", as well as running contrary to the "principle of legality", and has called for a second, independent report into the lawfulness of the measure. It is worth noting that the measure mirrors initiatives adopted in Italy, where greater autonomy for local councils in the field of security has resulted in several northern towns modifying criteria for registration in the anagrafe (residents' register) to encompass possession of a residence permit and even a home having an adequate size, or the resident having sufficient income to support their family (see Statewatch, vol. 18 no. 2).
El País, 8, 21.1.2010. La Vanguardia, 13, 15.1.2010.
Statements opposing the measure [from Mugak, translations by Statewatch, below]:
SOS Racisme Catalunya, "SOS Racismo - Catalunya denuncia los nuevos criterios de empadronamiento del Ayuntamiento de Vic", 4.1.2010.
Vic: Comunicado manifiesto acordado a la reunión de entidades, asociaciones y sindicatos del día 11 de enero de 2010.
SOS RACISME CATALUNYA STATEMENT, 4 January 2010
SOS Racismo - Catalunya criticises Vic town council's new criteria for registration in the residents' register.
We add our criticism to that by other social agents and trade unions, because it is a discriminatory measure that violates fundamental rights.
SOS Racismo-Catalunya wishes to condemn the new measures that were announced by Vic town council for the registration of foreigners in the residents' register (padrón).
These new criteria are clearly xenophobic and violate these people's fundamental rights, as they remove a part of the population from enjoying the provision of basic services, and worsen the situation of legal apartheid experienced by immigrants in an irregular administrative situation in an alarming way. Registration in the residents' register is a tool that local bodies have to be able to plan and distribute their resources in accordance with the population that is established, and hence it is a management tool that should be used as such. It can never be turned into a filter for receiving or rejecting people, nor into a control mechanism.
However, through these measures, Vic town council turns registration in the residents register into an attack against sans papiers. Fear of being reported to the police will lead to immigrants not registering, and the result will be that they will be even more invisible, more discriminated, and their rights will be violated.
Registration in the padrón is also previous step that is required for new arrivals to be granted a right of reception, according to the requirements envisaged by the Ley de acogida (reception law) and the requirements to regularise their position. The role of a town hall's council, and its responsibility, is to oversee the equality and non-discrimination of its citizens, preserve coexistence and know about its population in order to set up and manage resources and local services. But, through measures like these, Vic town council discriminates a part of its population, it fosters inequality in rights and stregthens the immigration-crime association. Furthermore, we believe that it is very hypocritical to expect that they may normalise their situation in only three months, when it is a process that, as is well known, can last for years, and that laws are what impede it, not the will of the affected people.
We also wish to stress that, regardless of how large or small the percentage of the people who are affected may be -they spoke of 2% of the people who have arrived recently-, it has the same rights as the rest of them, and therefore the violation is just as serious. Hence, we understand that the implementation of these measures would be an unacceptable act of political irresponsibility.
Even so, the announcement of a measure of this sort while using clearly xenophobic arguments hardly helps work towards coexistence in Vic, and it worsens the consequences of this political initiative. For these reasons, we call for it to be derogated; we call upon the rest of political parties in the town hall, as well as social bodies, to clearly reject any xenophobic policy that discriminates a part of the population, and we hope that the relevant administrations will adopt measures to unify the criteria for registration in the padrón and avoid further violations of rights in the future.
14 January 2010
VIC: MANIFESTO STATEMENT AGREED IN THE MEETING OF BODIES, ASSOCIATIONS AND TRADE UNIONS ON 11 JANUARY 2010.
The signatory bodies, following the serious decision by the town council of Vic concerning the criteria for registration in the residents' register, which has caused serious displeasure among the people who have recently arrived and the general population, and which affects or may affect the different populations of Osona and of Catalunya in the future
DECLARE THE FOLLOWING:
1.- We ask for the immediate withdrawal of the announced criteria for registration, because they are illegal and seriously discriminatory, and they contradict the National Pact for Immigration.
2.- Demand respect for the collective of people who have recently arrived, and to stop criminalising people merely because of their origin, social condition or administrative position.
3.- Announce our willingside to continue to work side by side with the town council of Vic to propose and promote reception policies and activities that are duly agreed, and may turn Vic into an example of coexistence and cooperation between people who have different cultures and origins. We ask for an immediate meeting with the town council's government team.
4.- We demand not to bemarginalised when decisions that affect us are made, considering that the first requirement for good coexistence is constructive dialogue that respects the dignity and rights of all people, with authentic participation by citizens.
5.- We demand of all the administrations to intensify their efforts and backing for the benefit of the towns that have higher levels of immigration and of policies promoting equal opportunities, providing due economic funding and backing in terms of material and human means in order to preserve, firstly, social peace and good mutual understanding..
BODIES/ASSOCIATIONS: African Muslem Cultural Association, Afufis (Senegal), Amigo-Amazigh, Asociación Cultural Subsahariana y amigos de Osona, Asociación de Ecuatorianos de Catalunya-Osona, Asociación de Ghana-Osona, Asociación Social y Cultural de la India, Asociación Tapiz, Cáritas, Casal Claret, Centre Islamic de Vic, Chamba Youth Association, CITE-Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Comité Cívico Colombiano, Comunidad Musulmana de Vic, CSA La Torratxa, Fedascat, Jameiat Essalam, Ohaneze Ndigbo in Catalunya, Revista Mano, SOS Racismo-Catalunya, UGT de Catalunya, Veus Diversas.
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