Migrants in Spain might be unable to vote in the general elections on Sunday, but this did not stop them to take the streets of Barcelona on Friday to make their presence felt and demand their rights.
Hundreds of migrants, refugees and supporters marched through Barcelona with chants and banners against borders and for freedom of movement as a way to mark International Migrants Day.
Organized migrant rights groups, like SOS Racism and Papers for Everyone, further denounced the strains of conservative migration laws in the country, which migrants say are specifically designed to keep them in a situation of illegality and precarity.
“Today we unite against the governments of the European Union and immigration laws that deny immigrants, already established in European territory, the right to papers and full citizenship, health, and to decent housing and jobs,” one migrant activist said in a speech received with standing ovation, according to El Diario.
The march was also an opportunity for migrant street vendors to protest against what they see as the racial criminalization of their work.
Over the past month, street vendors have been calling on Barcelona’s left-wing mayor, Ada Colau, to put an end to security forces cracking down on migrant workers around the city’s port area. The indefinite operation, launched almost two months ago, has been a huge blow to the livelihoods of migrant street vendors, who often have no other work opportunities given their legal status in the country.
“We are black and we are poor, we are street vendors because we have to eat from something,” one migrant street vendor told El Diario. “We do not have papers, nor work.”
The street vendors became an informal union in October after heated protests broke out last summer over the death of an undocumented Senegalese street vendor who was fleeing a police raid.
The death of the Senegalese man symbolized for many the racism of the state and the persecution and criminalization of migrant communities in and outside of Spain.