Barcelona is the least safe city in Spain. Very popular with tourists, the Catalan capital is increasingly suffering from a bad reputation.
Indeed, the multiplication of pickpocketing or assaults are real, and particularly affects holidaymakers, reported French daily Le Figaro. The rising climate of insecurity also worries the locals and the municipality.
For example, eight murders have already rocked Barcelona since July 1, 2019, against ten throughout the last year, in 2018. On Wednesday, August 21, the US Embassy even warned its citizens against “the increase in violent crime” advising them not to wear expensive watches or jewelry.
In recent days, a 91-year-old French woman had to be hospitalized after a fall caused by thieves who snatched a chain around her neck. The ambassador of Afghanistan in Spain was also attacked and his watch stolen, while a South Korean official died of injuries sustained during a robbery.
In real terms, there are 120 crimes per 1 000 inhabitants in Barcelona, far ahead of Marbella (80 per 1 000) and Madrid (74 per 1 000). The terrible crime figures are qualified by the mayor of the city, Ada Colau, as a global problem however. “Barcelona is a safe city suffering from some problems like Paris, London or all the other big cities,” she said.
These declarations, which are meant to be reassuring, did not prevent the councilor from shortening her holidays to respond to the “security crisis” that her deputies denounced.
On the other hand, the director of the Mossos, the regional police, denied that there is an alarming crime situation and has not hesitated to contradict the multiple reports. Tired of these perpetual contradictions, some Barcelona inhabitants have decided to take action by setting up “citizen patrols”, essentially brigades of residents who facilitate the stay of tourists.
In the subway, these “militia”, armed with whistles and a sign in several languages, do not hesitate to directly approach travelers suspected of being pickpockets. In the streets, groups called “Helpers” offer help to victims and witnesses of crime.
The police, meanwhile, encourage citizens to inform them of incidents, without challenging their authority. The main obstacle to integration is language, especially as schooling is in Catalan, which none of the immigrants speak.
In 2000 foreigners accounted for less than 2 percent of the population; a mere five years later, the figure was 15 percent (266 000). In 2018, it is now officially 18 percent although, according to Lola López, the city’s integration and immigration commissioner, the true figure is closer to 30 percent.
The three largest groups of immigrants are Europeans, Latin Americans and North Africans, mainly from Morocco, as well as large Chinese and Pakistani populations – and López says that Barcelona has its own identity, distinct from that of Catalonia or Spain.
According to research by Paolo Giaccaria, a social scientist at the University of Turin, the case of Barcelona “establishes a connection between two types of mobility that are at odds with each other: northern tourism and southern migration”.
The neighbourhood where immigration is most visible is El Raval [Arabic for suburb], and it has long been synonymous with drugs and prostitution, the Guardian reported.