The souls that fade away in the sea

The global growth and economic progress are inevitable, through Modernization and the following globalization. This one has allowed a global liberation of markets and people’s transit, but at the same time, it has reinforced the power system, by which second-class citizens have been created. Although the world seems to be advancing, wars persist, and new ones arise, as well as new levels of inequality and discrimination against individuals who migrate in search of a new life, far from poverty and armed conflicts. According to the Human Rights Council, “238 million people live outside there State of origin, of this 10 % or about 25 million people, have fled their country as refugees and 40 million have been displaced within their countries” (Human Rights Council, 2018). In this framework of fraternity and human rights, we observe how these people are separated from society, becoming mere “invasive” numbers, and as Zygmunt Bauman said, in “wasted lives” that culminate with tragic death or a reduction of their human rights (2003). Europe is in what they call, “migration crisis”, where citizens of countries in conflict (Syria, Afghanistan, Iran), human rights violations (Eritrea), and poverty (the Maghreb and West African countries), seek asylum or an improvement of their quality of life, not only economically but also humanly.

The devastating “crisis of humanity” that is spreading throughout the European Union has turned the Mediterranean into a wet cemetery for those who embark themselves on poorly manufactured boats to make their way to the Spanish, Italian and Greek coasts. A sea that registers between 2017 and 2018 about 4,000 thousand dead (International Organization for Migration, 2018). As Giddens pointed (2007 p170 cited Conejero, P., 2012, p96):

“It will not be possible to curb all illegal immigration, but there is hope that it can be controlled. Border management is a way to do this. Although the stricter it is, the more likely it is that it will lead to tragic hardships or even death for those who try to enter a country illegally … What happens in North Africa and the Middle East, or in countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, will undeniably have medium and long-term consequences in terms of migratory pressures on the EU.”

In recent years, the Mediterranean countries have hardened their migration policies, reinforcing borders, and violating human rights, therefore, ignoring a humanitarian problem. Among them, Spain, who has been denounced by the European Human Rights Court several times due to the immediate returns of individuals through Frontex (European Border and Coast Guard Agency), and the conditions in which migrants live in Migration Detention Centers (CIE in Spanish). In this context, the media have played and develop an important role, because their influence on Spanish society, through their discourse, have created tensions regarding immigration. In Spain, the media are catalysts of racism and xenophobia towards migrants, reducing them to mere numbers and reflecting them as problems for the political, economic and social stability of the country.

In the last four years, Spain has faced two episodes of human shame. The first one is The Tarajal case in 2014, where 15 migrants died trying to reach the Spanish shore due to the actions of the officers who attempted to dissuade immigrants by shooting rubber balls into the water and throwing smoke cans, causing the drowning of these people. The second one is the Aquarius crisis (2018), more related to the European migration crisis that has involved other countries like Italy, Malta, France, and Spain. Around 700 people were rescued during the night of Saturday 9 to Sunday 10 June 2018, by the ship Aquarius, where SOS Mediterranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) work together, the rescue took place for nine hours, under the instructions of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination (IMRCC). However, later the Italian Government refused to accept their landing in their ports, due to the policy and ideology of the Italian Home Affairs Ministry, the far-right Matteo Salvini. Subsequently, other countries of the European Union refused or looked the other way in the face of one of the worst crises. Still, Spain decided the landing of the Aquarius, before the numerous critics of activists, political groups (left) and NGOs.

The rejection of European society through different immigration policies and the media framing and discourse are some of the major problems the migrants face. Especially the media’s function, as it influences human’s consciousness, and creates a social representation and distorted identity of individuals and groups of people (Entman, 1993) (Hall, ?). Therefore, the media can help to create and/or reinforce hate, racism, and xenophobia, which ones perpetuate a violation of human rights.

Immigration in Spain is an actual topic in the political and social sphere, also in the media’s agenda (Montes, 2012). Hence, in this thesis, we are going to analyze the discourse and frames of two main-national Spanish newspapers to observe and perceive their portrayal of migration flows. In particular, this work will be focused on two of the most significant events, regarding immigration which affected Spain, its public opinion, and its policies during the past four years: The Tarajal and the Aquarius. Through the critical discourse analysis (CDA) and the framing theory, we will be able to determine if these newspapers contain a racial speech which can influence people’s perception of immigrants, thus creating an open door for the continuation of racial discrimination.

The Tarajal and the Aquarius Crisis were the most notable events in the last five years, regarding immigration in Spain’s coasts, where the coverage of the media has been daily. Through the discourse of analysis of the media, we can observe the narrative with which they influence public opinion on the issue of irregular immigration. Therefore, we will know if the media contribute to the creation of frames and stereotypes about migrants, creating racist and xenophobic prejudices.

Spanish society does not consider itself a racist nation, but in 2016, reports by the NGO SOS Racismo showed that racist reports rose by 26%, which invites us to decide that racism is increasing. Where institutional racism is deeply rooted and is delivered through the media. For this reason, the mass media are an important object of study in the socializing function, since they are able to shape, create or change the social opinion. In its mission, the use of language and social figures is important, so we must underline the concept of stereotype, which appeared in the book Public Opinion by the journalist Walter Lipmann in 1922.

Lipmann defines it as “a distorted image in the mind of a person” although the term has been better defined with the passage of time, summarizing it in: “stereotypes are standardized conceptions of people, based primarily on the belonging of an individual to a category (usually race, nationality, profession, social class, or gender) or possession of attributes characteristics symbolizing one of these categories “(Schweinitz, 2016: 4), that is, the stereotypes are generalized and standardized value judgements about silent groups in society as, for example, gypsy thieves, lazy blacks, Arab terrorists, Sensitive women, Irish alcoholics or Latinos who come to steal our work. Therefore, stereotypes are mere representations of social reality. To understand the role of stereotypes in society we can rely on the idea of Lipmann by which, stereotypes are nothing more than a means to guarantee our “respect” and protect this together with our “values” and the “position” that we occupy in the world (Lipmann, 1922: 64), which annexes his reasoning on that “stereotypes are driven by social, political and economic motivations” (Lipmann, 1922: 70).

In short, to maintain a social awareness that our own values ​​and rights are the dominant class, those that govern society, that class feels that it could lose everything to “the others” and helps stereotypes to reinforce its position (Lirola 2014). Therefore, media activate the negative cognitive responses in reference to “the other” in society, therefore a change must be done in the treatment of information by the media and its discourse (Yang 2015).

Institutional racism in Spain is not invisible since it is the government itself that qualifies immigration in the media as “alarming avalanche”, “coordinated attack” and “assault on the coasts”, therefore, the political elites and the elites themselves have an important role in the social reproduction of racism. The media [Spanish], far from being impartial and ethical, are businesses, and as such, are controlled by the financial and political elites, hence, the discourse of current Spanish journalism is the discourse of the elites (van Dijk, 2010). Journalism should do an exercise in order to introduce an interculturality in itself, therefore it will help to change the social collective since Spain is a diverse society. In addition, Elle Seiter invites to re-evaluate the concept of stereotype, arguing that “we must consider carefully the relationship of stereotypes to the legitimization of social power” (1986 p17).

Spanish nationalism plays an important role in rejecting the immigrant. Spain has a complex history in relation to nationalism since Spain has three historical nationalities (Basques, Catalans, and Galicians), in which there are linguistic and cultural differences. These historical nations supposed and suppose a constant political and social struggle in Spain, e.g. the recent referendum for the independence of Catalonia. During the dictatorship of Franco (follower of Hitler and Mussolini), these regions suffered strong repression on the part of Catholic nationalism, that tried to prohibit their languages. This constant conflict, which even created a terrorist group (ETA) has caused differences in Spanish society, promoting the growth of central nationalism as well as the peripheral (Núñez 2001). Spanish nationalism rejects the diversity of its “own” culture, therefore, the rejection of the “other”, the “outsider” in society and in the media, which are usually led by the elites that appeal, indirectly, to nationalism.

Analyzing the discourse of the media through the discourse analysis (Titscher, S., Meyer, M., Wodak, R., Vetter, E. 2000), both what is cited and what is not, including images, appears as a necessity, since it “constructs and constitutes” our world (Baker and Galasinski 2001, p1). Therefore, language help to build our cultural identities and perceptions. Moreover, as Santander (2011) points out “we know that the language is not transparent, the signs are not innocent, that the connotation goes with the denotation, that the language shows, but also distorts and hides, that sometimes what is expressed directly reflects the thought and sometimes it is only a light, subtle, cynical sign”. Therefore, concepts such as identity and culture influence discourse. Furthermore, the media settles the foundations on how to represent groups and individuals (Machin and Mayr 2012).

The understanding of the socio-cultural context of Spain is important to understand the dynamics of the media, as well as the creation of frames when reporting on “the others”.

The shadow of the phobia of immigrants began to plan in a country, Spain, characterized by strong migratory movements throughout the twentieth century. Our emigration was not limited simply to the years of the postwar period (1936-1939), but it passed from the beginning of the 20th century until the first years from the 80’s. From the 90’s the migratory flow was reversed. Spain was chosen as a host land by immigrants from South America of North Africa and Eastern Europe, due to its geographical location as a gateway to Europe and also as a result of having acquired a certain “economic prosperity that It places it among the top 10 world powers, however, the immigrants who are part of this migratory flow were not the first ones that Spain, willingly or unwittingly, hosted as such.

Since the entry into the new millennium, the issue of illegal immigration has been a daily issue in the media and the political agenda, therefore, in the society. Although the first racial murder with great media coverage occurred in 1992, when a Neo-Nazi Civil Guard officer shot Lucrezia Perez, in what later known as the hunt for immigrants. However, in the 2000s, immigration to Spain from Africa began to rise and with it, the rejection of immigrants in Spain, thanks to the then president of the government, Jose Maria Aznar who began the criminalization of immigrants in his political speeches after the riots in El Ejido, a town located in Almeria in southern Spain. This neighbourhood was a refuge for migrants from Africa in an irregular situation, who were involved in racist violence after the murder of a young woman by a Maghrebi migrant. The neighbourhood and Neo-Nazi groups set out to “hunt the Moor” (Toasije, 2009) (Constenla, t., Torregrosa, A., 2000).

At this time, illegal immigration would be a recurrent issue in Spain. Racism, xenophobia, and rejection towards immigration in Spain seem contradictory when investigating the origins of Spain, which was formed by the homogenization of peoples from Africa (Iberians), Central Europe (Celts), Romans, Greeks, Visigoths, Muslims (which left a great cultural influence). Therefore, Spain was conceived as a mixture of different peoples, which would later be increased through its participation in the Atlantic Slavery Trade, the colonization of South America, and the acquisition of Equatorial Guinea in Africa.

Although the origin of racism is a complex issue, the concept of racism today includes discrimination, interiorization, exclusion, and marginalization, and was born at the same time that modern nation-states emerged in the first half of the 18th century. In Spain, there are two different conceptions of racial identity. One that considers that all the inhabitants of the territory belonging to the same biological unit and have a common origin; and the other one that it has been explained previously, sees in Spaniards the result of long miscegenation, larvae as a result of the successive migrations and colonization that have arrived in the Peninsula.

The two theories are partially true and historically conditioned the relationships that Hispanics have had (and have) with each other and their vision of other ethnic groups extra peninsular. The image-relation with one’s own and with strangers has varied as over time, as well as the perception of the self-identity concept of the different groups that have lived in Iberia. The search for similarity elements or differentiation has changed circumstantially depending on the factors that most they will prevail at a given moment: religious, lineage, linguistic, economic, etc.

In the Hispanic sphere, religion has been a defining agent of social relationships for many centuries. Ritual beliefs and practices have conditioned the segregation or expulsion of certain communities considered as foreign countries, giving rise to the formation of a series of stereotypes that have perpetuated until today. From the Middle Ages to practically the 21st-century Christian religious faith has influenced legislation, power relations and the popular mentality of the Iberians. Here, Christianity (Catholic version), has been used to discriminate against Jews, Muslims, sceptics or Christians separated from the official dogma of the Roman Church. Under this Catholic ideal, Spain made its conquest of Latin America, producing an indigenous cleansing through Catholicism. In turn, nationalist groups, and Franco’s party itself share the ideals of Catholicism as pillars of their ideology. Biological racism came to Spain at the time of slavery, creating a concept of pure and superior race, the white race.

In addition, with the previous help and during the Second World War, fascism and Nazism were adopted in Spain, that is how the Neo-Nazi and nationalist ideology was created, by which the rejection of the immigrant, racism, and xenophobia became a political-social tool.

The media put the focus on immigration after the riots in El Ejido, when the relationship between migrants and Spanish society began to be hostile. The media, meanwhile, start creating frames and stereotypes about people who migrated in an “illegal” manner. The narrative of the media focused on representing immigration as a problem, which involved criminals who threatened national security (Di Renzo, 2017). Since then, immigration has brought serious political crises to the Spanish government, mainly on the border with Morocco (Melilla).

The number of individuals who began to jump the border was increasing, leading to a hardening of Spanish immigration policies, the creation of a new fence of more height with the inclusion of razors, and new mechanisms of surveillance with the help of the EU. On the other hand, Spain and Morocco established a new political relationship based on the migration crisis. For which, serious violations of human rights have occurred in both countries and have been consented to under the eyes of each other. For example, the forced return of migrants to their countries, automatic entry into immigration detention centres, and exile in deserts.

The southern border of Spain, the desire of many migrants to make their way to Europe, the land of opportunities has been gradually militarized. Where the media have been created the image of people without a name, a mass which travels risking their lives to receive “all possible help” from a country in crisis. Since then, the image of the immigrant in Spanish public opinion has become a paternalistic vision, for which, despite suffering a crisis, Spain must be the humanitarian aid of these people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.