Paulino Ros has the ability to get the most out of it 24 hours a day. A journalist for Onda Regional de Murcia since 1990, he is also a sociologist and author of the blog Islam en Murcia. Original from Torre Pacheco, one of the municipalities with the largest immigrant population in the Region of Murcia, just a few weeks ago presented his research ‘Moroccans who changed Torre Pacheco in 40 years (1979-2019)’, in which he addresses his arrival and integration, the evolution of the second generation, the precarious jobs to which they are subjected, hate speech encouraged from some sectors and the urgent need to apply policies to reverse the march of phenomena such as racism or Islamophobia. “I wonder how in Murcia there is no Immigration Department with the rates of foreign population that we handle; but, of course, a lot of immigrant population does not vote, if they voted the reality would be quite different”, reflects Ros, who this week also opens as a tutor of Introduction to Sociology at the UNED in Cartagena.
According to his study, Torre Pacheco is a key piece in the Community’s immigration board.
Yes. Basically because it went from being a poor land without water 40 years ago, to a rich and fertile one thanks to the transfer, in 1979. Then they began to demand labor, I have lived through this whole process because it coincides with my own life experience. First, workers from Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and also from other more impoverished areas of the Region began to arrive. But that job creation increased and then the flow of Moroccans to the municipality began in the 1980s. To this day they continue to arrive, that flow does not stop and it will not stop. In Torre Pacheco it is the majority foreign population of among a hundred nationalities settled in the municipality.
They also star in a very important part of the economic life of the entire area …
Especially in the agricultural sector, they are indispensable and all the ‘pachequeros’ know it even though sometimes they do not want to look at that reality. If you walk through the center of Torre Pacheco it seems that you are in Morocco, because of the presence they have in the streets, the shops … On the other hand, the working conditions of these people are painful and the Immigration Law is a disaster, it seems that is made so that there is always a bag of irregular labor ready to work for practically free. Not only in the field, but also in domestic service where Maghreb and Latin American women work, and it is another tremendous problem. However, it is not always denounced, the unions do not see that they do an exhaustive monitoring work either, perhaps because they are workers who do not speak the language well, are very docile and are afraid of losing the 15 or 20 euros they earn per day. Their employers know that without them they cannot carry out their harvests, that they will not find another worker so faithful, so cheap and so available from Monday to Sunday, no Spanish worker can do that; but they continue to hinder us because they are not from here, they do not speak our language and they are poor.
How do you think this imbalance is influencing the second generations?
They are immersed in an identity crisis, which can generate conflict in a generation that feels lost. Next week is Hispanic Day and although many Moroccans have already been born in Spain they do not feel Spanish. In their countries they are considered foreigners, and here they are seen as ‘Moors’. All public institutions must act to correct this scenario. If they don’t, everything can get worse. There are many despondent young people who do not finish their studies and find themselves on the street with nothing to do, with the temptation to commit crimes and it is a problem that is not addressed because that reality is not recognized. There are very high rates of school failure in this population segment, schools that have become ghettos, classrooms where one hundred percent of the student body is Moroccan … And the policies that are implemented are patches, there is no transversal approach.
Do the current governments do little?
In my study, I conclude that we are far from the lines that would have to be followed to advance in true integration. The perception of the Moroccan population is not very positive on the part of its neighbors. They have a bad reputation, ‘bad press’ and that is due in part to journalistic malpractice. Over the years an image of the ‘shitty Moor’ has been generated. But they are people who are in this society, at school, in the football club, in our streets, who were born here and who are a lost generation without identity. The last example we have this past September in the Roldán run over, committed by a Moroccan, which resulted in a deceased person in addition to the driver.
The National Court investigates the event as a possible crime of terrorism. How would you analyze the media coverage of this case?
The coverage that has been done, in general, leaves a lot to be desired. Every time something like this happens, it is a tragedy for the entire Moroccan and Muslim community, because they point to everyone. There is not a single piece of evidence that it was a terrorist attack. You cannot be giving firewood from minute 1 from all kinds of media, especially some nationals with an interest in encouraging far-right parties. Society buys these messages immediately and it is very difficult to correct them afterwards. It does a lot of damage.
So is the racist discourse very installed?
I have seen him from the professor with an Islamophobic speech out of ignorance to the bar counter. In the Region we have experienced many events in this regard; from the attack on the San Javier mosque that they tried to burn in February to the point-blank death of Younes in June. They are very serious cases and they are cases that do not cease to exist. Many immigrants suffer it every day in their skin, microracisms that sometimes go out of control when they see on TV that there is someone important who legitimizes hatred; that gives them oxygen. We must fight against these behaviors and take them to a minimum, through education. The problem that exists in our region is that immigration is going to increase but the competent authorities do not seem to understand it and should stop criminalizing them and pointing the finger at the immigrant.
Where do you have to walk to improve these situations?
You have to work from all institutions. I have already been able to present the study to the mayor of Torre Pacheco, I want to meet with the unions and I have requested a meeting with the Minister of Social Policy and Vice President of the Government, Isabel Franco, but I am still waiting for her to respond. What cannot be is that the Immigration Forum has only met three times in the last five years. You have to dedicate more resources and money. Change the system from the school, where we have more than 20,700 Moroccan students and where 72% of immigrant students do not have an ESO degree. We must give them more facilities when processing documents, which are not a headache for them and they have to constantly be hiring translators. And that happens by making language learning a priority. Especially in women, who are the ones who stay at home and support the home. There are many barriers but they must be broken down with courage. They, the Moroccans, also have to step forward and lose their fear, build their identity as Spaniards without losing their customs and culture. Spain is a country that offers them a Constitution with rights and duties and they must find their place in Spanish society.