Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spain - Franco is back

As British expatriates are abandoning the Spanish sunshine due to the devaluation of the pound against the Euro, Spain, predominantly dependent on tourism, is sinking deeper into recession. With the economic downturn comes a rise in right-wing politics, as is also the case in other countries of Europe. Whilst some countries view this development and its concomitant racism as a threat, Spain seems to embrace it with open arms. For the erstwhile dictatorship where fascism lingered another three decades after the end of the second world war, being a police state seems only too natural. For foreign visitors to Spain the arrogance of the Guardia Civil, the Spanish paramilitary police, and the deference showed to them by civilians and officials alike are becoming more evident.

Case study Girona airport: an airport entirely dependent on Ryanair who fly to numerous European destinations as well as Morocco from there. Many come here for the sun, but many are transit passengers on a stop-over to another Ryanair destination, since in spite of the substandard service, queuing system and hand luggage checks bordering on harassment, Ryanair flights, heavily subsidised by the regions to which they fly, remain the cheapest way to get around Europe at the moment. Whereas most airports in Europe only have X-ray machines for departure check-in, Spanish airports also feature X-ray machines for arrivals, which are used discretionary. Discretion always leaves room for abuse, and where nationalist tendencies prevail, this takes the form of racial profiling.

From observation it appears that travellers of Moroccan appearance (and for the Spanish police that includes all manners of Asians) stand a much greater chance of being asked to put their hand luggage through a scanner on arrival. So far, this is only a minor inconvenience, but the scanning, although showing that no contraband is being carried, is frequently followed by a passport check after which the inspecting officer walks off with the document to a security office room where he photocopies the passport and enters details on his computer for a purpose undisclosed to the perplexed passenger. Any attempt to question the purpose or even legality of the move is swiftly followed by the questioner being subjected to prolonged questioning (exclusively in Spanish and often deteriorating into being shouted at) before he is eventually released without explanation. There have been cases where police locked the door of the examination room from the inside before intimidating the "suspects". Demands for an interpreter are regularly ignored.

A similar treatment is sometimes also meted out to passengers on departure check-in, although it is less serious since the passenger wants to leave Spain anyway and non-cooperation could hardly have the more damaging result of being denied entry to the country. Nonetheless, it is disruptive and may eventually turn the visit to, or stop-over in, Spain into an experience the weary traveller does not want to repeat. One should think that Spain can hardly afford turning people away who might help save the Spanish economy by spending their money there, but the police at least have no such scruples.

On an occasion, when I challenged their inappropriate behaviour, they responded by subjecting me to the very same treatment of running off with my passport and subjecting me to questioning, the process being prolonged by the fact that the examining officer was unable to operate his own computer equipment! I did manage to arrange for an interpreter who, however, seemed clearly awe-stricken by the police officers and more intent on arguing their case than translating between the parties. What I was repeatedly told was that when you are in Spain, Spanish police can do whatever they want, basta. A reminder that Spain was a signatory to numerous European conventions cut no ice.

Officers with the following badge numbers currently have an official complaint filed against them with the municipality of Catalunya or the airport authority: 2510, 84613, 88336, 99142. It remains to be seen whether they are at all accountable and effective checks on an abuse of police power exist in Spain - the historic evidence is not encouraging.


At 18 November 2009 at 16:31, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A frankly ridiculous blog that I have wasted a few minutes of my life reading.

It's a case of where to start. As a foreigner living in Spain who speaks the language and has integrated fully, I know that deference to the Guardia Civil does not exist. That said, nor does the Guardia Civil exist as the Police force in some areas of the country for historical reasons such as in Cataluña (where Girona is) where they only maintain immigration checking and counter-terrorism roles as anything remotely meaningful. Furthermore, given that Spain was attacked with hundreds dying due to Muslim bombers only a few years ago and the threat of further attacks very real any security improvement is welcome. It is a case of if you have nothing to hide then you'll have no problem.

It appears that this blog has as its central 'thread' (you couldn't say argument) that my rights as a person are more important than collective security against a proven Muslim threat. I am sure the families of the dead in Madrid who regard you with disgust and given your stated role as a pilot you merely reinforce the stupidity of this blog.

Another laughable line is the refusal of an interpretor during, I presume you mean interrogation when you say intimidation. Well that would be useful wouldn't it? It isn't easy to verbally threaten someone who has no idea what you are saying to them. So are you accusing them of physical violence and if so where is the proof?

I have been stopped more in the UK than in Spain through security where it is at paranoid levels but whilst it does negatively affect my experience in the airport bloging a whinge like yours would never occur to me as after s-11 and beyond I prefer this to seeing more jumbo jets crashing into building by muslim murderers.

With regard to right-wing politics in Spain in spite of 5 years of disastrous socialist rule which has led us to loose all international respect, a collapsed economy, free abortions for under-aged girls without parental consent, largely uncontrolled immigration leading to massive social problems and of course legalised Gay marriages a chance of a centre-right government now seems a dream. Yet to say Franco is back is insulting and suggests you really should leave blogging for those who actually have something worthwhile to say. You sir are a moron.

At 18 November 2009 at 16:48, Blogger Mustaqim said...

At least I have the decency of publishing your differing opinion without calling you names.

At 19 November 2009 at 11:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous said...
"A frankly ridiculous blog "
so what the hell are you doing on this blog moron?
As to
"It isn't easy to verbally threaten someone who has no idea what you are saying to them. So are you accusing them of physical violence and if so where is the proof?"
BS. One can understand the tone, manner and also pick up many words if one knows english and importantly speaks languages.
This is a typical zionist ideology of 9/11 BS and than claiming the moron a self elected is speaking for Spain.

Hi Flying Imam we think you are brilliant.
the jealouse ignorant will always find something to BITCH about with their ranting.

At 21 November 2009 at 23:56, Blogger Unknown said...

Mashallah Sidi excellent post! May Allah bless you and all your family always ameen, by the way i just became a father to a beautiful son named Sulayman

At 22 November 2009 at 10:30, Anonymous ana said...

I am a Spanish woman, precisely from Catalonia. I am really surprised by your post...
To start with, I was really surprised when talking about Guardia Civil, you wrote about Girona. Catalonia is probably the region in Spain where Guardia Civil is more hated (historial reasons) and they have been replaced by Catalan policemen, that is Mossos d'Esquadra.
I have been flying several times a year to the UK for the last 3 or 4 years, and sometimes I have been treated very well, while in other occasions my handbag has been removed to check,touch and ask for everything on it. (on that occasion I was travelling with my parents, who dont speak English at all and werent provided an interpreter.) On another occasion I was asked for a pearcing I have in my body, which cannot be seen with clothes, and I had to show it. It was the most unconfortable moment of my life. Oh, I shouldnt forget to talk about the time policen in the airport spent laughing at me because of my accent and my mistakes talking in English.
I think you probably had a bad expericience, but we are not all like those incompetent people you had to treat with. And please dont use it as an example of "Franco is back", because as somebody has said before, Spain is right now very far from it. Do you think Franco could accept gay marriages, or legalised abortion?
However, I completely agree when you say that there is a lot of racism in Spain. I am very ashamed because of it, but it is the truth. Racism is everywhere, specially with people from the north of Africa. Spanish people seem to forget they have been inmigrants in other parts of the world less than a century ago.
I hope I have not offended you with my opinion. I have read some of your older posts and your blog is really interesting. I will come back to read it, sure!


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