Groups representing immigrants in Catalunya have voiced their concern at the apparent hardening of the stance of the Generalitat towards them (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Experts in social cohabitation and immigrant collectives consider that the government is delivering a growing number of messages regarding foreigners that suggests restrictions of their rights. The man responsible for immigration at the Generalitat, Xavier Bosch, insists that there is no toughening of immigration policy; rather, he says, he is seeking social and political consensus to drive the management of the situation. Various immigration associations have highlighted the fact that the majority of recent declarations coming from the Generalitat directed at immigrants have been warnings: the contemplation of denying residency permits to those immigrants who carry out unsociable acts, presenting a survey that voices criticism of foreigners' collectives, announcing a future ban on the burqa and proposing that knowledge of the Catalan language be a determinant for obtaining a positive residency report. Entities such as the trade union Comisiones Obreras and Fedelatina have said that while Bosch's intentions may be positive, the signals coming from the Generalitat are worrying. In addition, immigration experts have said that the Catalan government needs to send out messages to respond to the effects of the recent survey that found that half of Catalans believe there are too many immigrants here and that 47 percent feel the law is too tolerant with this group.
The Catalan government is preparing a special event to show support for Japan to be held on the day of Sant Jordi (April 23rd) at the Sagrada Familia (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The location is significant because Japanese tourists regularly flock to the Gaudí cathedral, and are, in general, known to be great admirers of the Catalan architect's work. Few details have been released about the event, and it is not yet known whether it will be carried out in the basilica of the cathedral (which has no events planned for Easter Saturday, the day on which Sant Jordi falls this year) or in the square in front of the building. However, representatives from the Generalitat have got in touch with Japanese diplomatic staff to let them know about the proposal. The government has already announced that April 23rd will officially be known here as the Day of Solidarity with the people of Japan. Since last week's earthquake and subsequent tsunami, members of the Generalitat have been in close contact with the Japanese Consul-General in Catalunya, Hidehiro Tsubaki, to offer and coordinate help. However, as the Consul-General explained yesterday, even though the assistance has been offered, it is not yet decided how it will eventually materialise. He went on to say that the Japanese government has officially requested help from the European Commission, and that he was very grateful for the support offered by Catalunya. "The fact that they are going to dedicate to us a day that is so important to you [the Catalans] as Sant Jordi, has moved us."
The Generalitat is considering legal action against Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, following the decision of the company to stop operating flights in and out of Lleida-Alguaire airport (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The airline has sent a letter, dated March 15th, to the Catalan government informing it of the decision to stop the flights from June 1st this year. To keep running its services from the airport, Ryanair wanted the Generalitat to increase the subsidy that it receives for operating flights to and from Lleida, specifically, €60 per passenger carried, rather than the €20 that it is currently paid; it also wanted a minimum annual payment of €2.2 million a year, when last year it received €600,000. The director general of the Generalitat's department of transportation and mobility, Ricard Font, said that the company has a contract with the government until 2014, and as such, if Ryanair does halt its Lleida flights, then the Generalitat will take it to court for non-compliance with the terms of the legal agreement.