A Spanish court has rejected an appeal against an election campaign poster used by the far right, which presented immigrant children as a threat and a drain on public funds.
The far-right Vox party put the controversial poster up in the capital’s Sol Metro station during the campaign ahead of the Madrid region’s May 4th election.
It showed a close-up picture of an elderly woman next to one of a dark-skinned, hooded youth, with his face half-covered. Apparently comparing how much the Madrid region spends on unaccompanied immigrant minors (or “MENAs”) and its elderly, the slogan read: “A MENA: €4,700 per month... Your grandmother: €426 pension per month.”
The poster drew immediate criticism due to its misleading nature. Unaccompanied migrant minors in Madrid do not receive €4,700 per month. That is the total amount it costs to accommodate them in specialised centres and to employ the professionals who work with them.
According to official figures, there are 3,700 children staying in such centres in the Madrid region. However, most are Spanish and only 269 are the so-called MENAs whom Vox referred to in its poster campaign.
A local state prosecutor’s office launched a complaint against the poster, which the Socialist Party of prime minister Pedro Sánchez supported, on the grounds that the campaign amounted to a hate crime by “provoking the rejection of a specific community”.
After an initial court ruling allowed the poster to stay up during the campaign, Madrid’s provincial court has rejected an appeal against that decision. Controversially, the court has also ruled that “regardless of whether or not the figures provided are true, [immigrant minors] represent a clear social and political problem”.
Vox came fourth in the May election, making slight gains, while the conservative Popular Party (PP) scored a resounding win, more than doubling its seats. However, last month, the PP needed the votes of Vox in order to form a new regional government. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the PP’s candidate and regional president, was among those who criticised Vox’s stance on the migrant children issue during the campaign.
Vox has frequently sought to present unaccompanied immigrant minors, who tend to be from North Africa, as a major threat for Spain.
In May, an estimated 8,000 migrants crossed from Morocco to the Spanish city of Ceuta, which it borders, in just over one day as border guards from the African country appeared not to stop them. The mass crossing was seen as a reprisal by Morocco against Spain due to Madrid’s stance on the issue of Western Saharan sovereignty.
Vox described the arrival of migrants as “an invasion”. Although most migrants were returned to Morocco almost immediately, hundreds of unaccompanied minors, whose legal situation is more complex, remain on the Spanish side.