Just after the riots in Roquestas del Mar in the first week of September I tuned in to ‘Gente’ on TVE1 where one of the Senegalese immigrants was being interviewed. The disturbances were sparked by friction between gypsies and the Africans who live cheek and jowl in the same quarter of the town after a Senegalese had been stabbed to death.
Enough column inches have been written about that tragedy so I won’t enter that debate now. What struck me though was that the African gentleman being interviewed spoke fluent Spanish and he and those with him were fully aware of their rights under Spanish law and were determined to have them respected.
Now over 275,000 Britons are officially registered as living in Spain and the number who live here either full or part time is probably treble that. Many are part of the income tax and social security system, they have invested in property, some own businesses and those who are signed on the census at their town hall can vote.
Britons are protected by the same laws as their fellow Spaniards and as EU citizens are fully entitled to live and work in this country – the same as a Spaniard is in the UK. Some years ago it was suggested to me by some older Spaniards that as a foreigner I had not rights. I am not sure whether that was the case in Franco’s time but I was more than happy to educate them as to just what rights we shared.
The reason I am raising this issue is that whilst the impoverished Senegalese living in a slum in Roquestas del Mar are fully aware of their rights, and insist on them being respected, many Britons in Spain behave as if they were just guests and wouldn’t say boo to the proverbial ‘fantasma’.
In a recent article in ‘Magazine’ on foreign residents in Spain a 68-year old man from Newcastle was featured who now lives in Mijas Costa. “Kevin and Wendy read The Daily Telegraph. They watch the BBC. They listen to Spectrum FM, a radio station in Marbella which only broadcasts in English. Kevin said: ‘Before we came, we were intent on learning Spanish in our country. We went to evening classes. But when we arrived here the reality is that nobody speaks it. We never have the opportunity to practice it.’”
So they don’t speak Spanish in Spain!
Of course the same situation exists in Britain amongst the various immigrant communities who insist on sticking to their traditions and language, especially those from Asia, and we known the average Britons view on that.
The fact is we’re not guests, we live in Spain legally, we have the full weight of European and Spanish law behind us and the sooner many Brits come out of the ghetto and start participating in the life of the country – politically and socially – the better it will be for Spain and for us.