Immigration and Political Discourse

By: Mateo Ballester Rodríguez  

The last years have been characterized by an intense growth of anti-immigration discourse in most Western European countries. In contrast, Spain is among the few of them, along with Portugal and Ireland, where the immigration issue has (perhaps so far) not gained relevance in the political debate. This is particularly noticeable given that in Spain the migratory flow, although more recent, has been of great intensity in recent years, that it has some of the most problematic borders, and a high degree of illegal immigration. It is therefore interesting to analyze the reasons that explain that immigration has become a central political issue in some countries and not in others. For the Spanish case there are several possible explanatory factors: among them, the memory of having been, and somehow continuing to be, a country of emigration, an intense level of rejection of the extreme right-wing options, an almost non-existent presence of an anti-European feeling and discourse, a comparatively high self-perception of Spanish society as culturally diverse, a higher sense of cultural closeness towards certain important immigrant communities. As an additional possible cause, the conflict related with Catalonian secessionism, together with other issues (corruption, economic crisis) has left little space in the political debate, and has led political parties to present themselves as open to ethnic diversity, in order to avoid the accusation of promoting ethnic nationalism. The anti-immigration discourse has however been brought up lately by a new political party, whose future development is uncertain and a matter of debate.

Immigration, Nationalism, Spain, Political parties, Political debate
Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mateo Ballester Rodríguez

Professor, Political History, Theory and Geography, Professor in Political Science, Spain