Their nationalities are not known, except that they are from non-EU countries, and their spokesman, Juan Ávila, says many have suffered verbal and physical violence from the public as well as being unable to ‘settle’ properly in the city.
They reportedly requested permission from the city council to hold a meeting inside the old Massana music school (pictured) in the Plaza de la Gardunya, in the Raval district, which used to be Barcelona’s Santa Creu Hospital.
After the meeting, attended by around 100, about a third of them decided to stage an overnight lock-in.
They want to see non-EU migrants granted residence cards on application whether or not they have a job – although many of them work, they are not employed by companies and not earning enough to register as self-employed – and for citizenship to be given without having to pass exams.
Spanish citizenship applications require candidates to pass a test with 25 multiple choice questions on everyday politics, culture, geography and social rights and duties, of which 15 must be correct, and also a language exam set at level A2, which is roughly equivalent to a good GCSE standard of Spanish, typically taking about two years to reach for a beginner starting with no knowledge of the language.
The lock-in protest also calls for Catalunya to do more to help refugees seeking asylum and agree to resettle more of them.
Also, they want migrants without residence papers to be allowed to register on the padrón, or municipal census.
Everyone living in Spain more than six months of the year is required – and has the right – to register on the padrón, without which it is impossible to register with a doctor, put children in school, apply for residence, or take out a loan or mortgage, and it serves as proof of how long a person has lived in their town.
Spanish law dictates that even ‘illegal’ immigrants are permitted, and expected, to register.
Ávila says the protest will continue until ‘proper negotiations’ are underway with local authorities.
Talks between the city council and the demonstrators have apparently started this afternoon, but the group remains barricaded in the old school building.