At the beginning of this century, Barcelona was home to some 40,000 immigrants, attracted by the economic opportunities available in a dynamic city transformed in the after-glow of the 1992 Olympic Games.
Fast forward eight years and that number had jumped to 300,000, a growth so rapid that it confronted local authorities and politicians with myriad challenges that other multi-ethnic and religious societies had grappled with for decades.
“Chaos” is Daniel de Torres’ (photo) own description of the situation which confronted city officials faced with new arrivals from Latin America, Asia and elsewhere. “It was an intensive change in such a short time,” says Barcelona’s former Commissioner for Integration.
“The reality was changing so fast every week. As we didn’t have models – the multicultural model or the assimilationist model, we tried to invent something new, taking into account our history and our reality.”
Spain now tops the European charts as the country with the highest proportion (14% of the 40m population) of immigrants, or people of immigrant origin living within its borders.
In this podcast, Daniel de Torres discusses how the city adapted to the presence of the newcomers, reflects on the indigenous population’s sense of abandonment and reveals the steps taken to defuse social tensions.
The interview is the first of a three-part series focussing on European immigration ahead of the Intercultural Cities conference in Dublin from 6 to 8 February. Daniel De Torres will be among the government delegates and NGO representatives who will gather to discuss the challenges raised by immigration, with a special focus on inteculturalism as a framework for local authorities to achieve better community relations.
Follow the Intercultural Cities conference on Twitter #DublinICC