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Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue Congress, Bilbao-2005

Mossos D'Escuadra
Police Forces of the Generalitat of Catalonia

Migration movements and the settlement of new cultures imply a big impact in the lands of welcome. This has become a highly topical question and in some cases it has also become a source of social concerns. In the late years immigration has become “visual” in Catalonia and in several parts of the region the percentages of immigrant population have increased considerably, reaching a 18% of population in areas where the percentage was almost null not so long ago.

In this historical context, a modern police organisation must evolve in the same way as the society is doing and therefore, there is a clear need that the police services provide themselves with tools that allow them to give a response to new demands which are related to this new situation.

Catalonia nowadays is a land of welcome of people coming from the Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and South-America. In most of these countries the police model that they have got differs quite a lot from the one that we are used to in most of the European countries. Facing this new “scenario”, the first challenge that the Catalan police services have to face is to be able to guarantee that these newcomers have accessibility to enter the corps. If we wish to normalize the relationship between newcomers and the police services, we must overcome reticence against intercultural dialogue and any kind of mistrust must disappear.

In order to achieve the aims of this Community Police, and in order to give a new boost to the relationship with the citizenship, the Catalan Police Services have created the role of the “Community Relations Spokesperson”. Nowadays, in each police station there are one or two members of the Police who have been taught in communication skills and who have got a high profile on human relations. This officer or commander has often assumed most of the contacts with the social and associative network of the city or neighbourhood where this police station is located. In the field of immigration, this is the key-person with whom one should establish contacts and is the person who knows most of the associations and organisations who give support to newcomers.

Another ground of action developed by the Catalan police services in order to increase contacts with immigrants have been the informative talks with the immigrant community (we try to talk with groups already made, for example groups that are learning Spanish or Catalan language, or asking to different immigrant associations the possibility to talk with their associated people). This methodology has permitted the police to get in contact with people with whom a previous contact had been inexistent. We have to be aware of the fact that the majority of immigrant people have never had contact with the police organisation if not in a conflict situation, they don’t know who we are, where we are, which work we do, how to contact us, so probably because of their own reference models and the way they start to be in our society, sometimes, for a while, in an irregular situation, they are reluctant to start thinking on the police in the way a community police looks for. These talks are the adequate space in which police present themselves as a public service provider, who facilitate the knowledge of legislation and informs about which cultural traditions could be considered almost against the law or infringing it. In the same level, we try to prevent domestic violence talking about this subject, with women and with men, to let them know how important is to be aware that the end of this crime needs that all the society refuses it in a forceful way and denouncing cases. These talks are also considered to be a space of exchange that allows the police to detect the most sensible locations around the territory and the difficulties that arise when there is a coexistence of diverse people coming from different backgrounds, this means also to be able to know, as soon as possible, if in the area where we give service we have discrimination crimes because of origin or religion, and in such a way try to achieve that every single crime becomes denounced.

These talks, that have been running for years, have allowed the signature of a convention with the Department of Social Welfare of the Catalan Government that has lead to the implementation of a programme called “Woman, you also count”.

The talks with women who have recently arrived to our country allows the police services to inform them about domestic violence. The first objective is that everyone living in Catalonia should be aware that there is a special legislation that refers to domestic violence. It is essential that the woman who has been beaten or mistreated, also in a psychological way, or has been a victim of a sexual attack by his partner, is aware that she is being the victim of a criminal offence. This woman should also have the basic knowledge and information regarding the facilities that the public administrations can provide and the judiciary response that is generated after the report to the police has been made.

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