Spanish police probe migrant youth centre attack

Spanish police probe migrant youth centre attack
A group of 25 people with their faces masked "ransacked" a migrants' youth centre in the coastal town of Castelldefels south of Barcelona, Spanish police confirmed.
3 min read
13 March, 2019
Thousands of migrants have entered into Europe via Spain [File Photo: Getty]
Police in Spain were investigating an attack with "racist connotations" against a migrants' youth centre near Barcelona on Wednesday, the second such attack in the past week in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

A group of 25 people with their faces masked "ransacked" the centre in the coastal town of Castelldefels south of Barcelona in the early hours of Sunday and "tried to attack teachers and minors", the regional government of Catalonia said in a statement.

Three people were injured - two teachers and a minor who suffered an anxiety attack, the statement added.

Catalan regional police have questioned the injured and witnesses but have not arrested anyone so far, a spokesman for the police force told AFP.

Castelldefels city hall downplayed the incident, calling it a fight between migrants from the centre and locals youths, but the Catalan regional government suspect the attack was racially motivated.

"We are talking about a very serious incident which has a racist connotation... this is not a simple fight between youths," said the regional social affairs minister who is responsible for immigration, Chakir El Homrani.

The attackers shouted xenophobic words during the attack, and repeated these words and threw stones during a rally outside the centre the following day, according to his ministry.

A man with a machete burst into another youth centre for migrants in Canet de Mar, north of Barcelona, on March 6 and threatened its occupants but left without injuring anyone.

The attacks come amid a surge in the arrival of unaccompanied migrants, mostly from Morocco.

The number of unaccompanied migrants in Catalonia jumped from 684 in 2016 to 3,742 in 2018. 

Spain has become the main entry point for migrants fleeing Africa to seek a better life in Europe, overtaking Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile in January, the UN refugee agency said the number of migrants who died or went missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean fell by more than a quarter in 2018 over the previous year, to 2,262.

The number of migrants who arrived in Europe after surviving the sea crossing also dropped by roughly the same proportion last year to 113,482 after 172,301 in 2017, according to the UNHCR's full-year figures.

A total of 3,139 were reported dead or missing in 2017.

"The Mediterranean has been for years the most deadly sea crossing in the world for refugees and migrants," UNHCR spokeswoman Celine Schmitt told AFP in Paris.

The data also confirmed that Spain had become the main gateway into Europe for migrants and refugees who travel from north Africa, with 55,756 people registered as arriving there by sea in 2018.

All of the figures are far down from their peak in 2015 when an estimated one million people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe, mostly from Turkey into Greece.

The effects of that influx continue to reverberate around the continent, sparking debate about immigration policies and fuelling far-right parties in countries that have welcomed large numbers of refugees, such as Italy, Germany, Spain and Sweden.

The largest group of migrants who arrived in Europe in 2018 came from the west African state of Guinea (13,068) followed by Morocco (12,745) and Mali (10,327).

Syrians were the fourth biggest group (9,839), followed by Afghans (7,621) and Iraqis (7,333).

Far-right groups routinely take to social media to highlight crimes allegedly committed by migrant minors, and accuse the mainstream media of downplaying crimes carried out by foreigners.

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