July 1. The United Nations reported that June 2018 was a record month for illegal migration to Spain. At least 7,142 illegal migrants arrived in Spain during the month, more than twice the number of arrivals in Italy (3,101) and three times as many as in Greece (2,157). By way of comparison, 2,682 illegal migrants arrived in Spain in June 2017. In all, 17,781 illegal migrants arrived in Spain during the first six months of 2018, almost double the 9,581 migrants who arrived in Spain during the same period in 2017.
July 2. The European Commission provided Spain with €25.6 million ($30 million) in aid to improve the reception capacity of migrants in the country. The money will be used to provide food and shelter for people arriving through the so-called Western Mediterranean route. With this transfer, the EU has provided Spain with €692 million ($800 million) since 2014 to help manage migration flows.
July 3. Maritime Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo), a Spanish government search and rescue agency, reported that during the first six months of 2018, it had rescued a total of 13,394 mostly African migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar and the westernmost part of the Mediterranean, known as the Alborán Sea.
July 3. The University of the Basque Country announced that, beginning this fall, "refugees" and "stateless persons" will be allowed to study at the university for free.
July 4. A ship named Open Arms, carrying 60 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya, arrived in Barcelona after being turned away by Italy and Malta. Mayor Ada Colau said the arrival of the ship fulfilled her dream of making Barcelona a "refugee city." With celebratory music in the background, and a large banner reading "Barcelona, Safe Harbor," Colau lashed out at the "policy of death and the cruelty of European states" which refuse to accept migrants:
"Welcome, we were waiting for you. It is very exciting to be able to finally say welcome and welcome home."
July 6. An ombudsman appointed by the regional government in Catalonia to rule on disputes over dress codes at public swimming pools recommended that to avoid discrimination, both topless bathing as well as burkinis should be allowed. The ombudsman said that "all municipalities with municipal swimming pools should review their regulations from a gender perspective and respect the freedom of expression of females." This solution, he said, would highlight the "iconic value of female claims to both topless and burkini."
July 6-10. In a five-day period, Maritime Rescue picked up 975 mostly African migrants (344; 150; 231; 116; 134) in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to reception centers in southern Spain.
July 10. Police in Algeciras reported that a Moroccan migrant, rescued from the Strait of Gibraltar, turned out to be on Spain's most-wanted list. Identified only as Sbahi, he is accused of murdering an elderly man in Ceuta during a robbery in 2016.
July 11. The Spanish Supreme Court ordered the government to honor a pledge to take in 19,449 refugees from other EU countries. In 2015, Spain pledged to receive 13,086 migrants from Greece and 6,363 from Italy, as part of a European Council scheme to redistribute migrants across the EU. Up to now, Spain has taken in fewer than 2,500 migrants, or just under 13% of its committed allotment.
July 11. Education Minister Isabel Celaá announced that religion courses in Spanish public schools would no longer count for academic credit. She did not say if the measure applies only to courses on Roman Catholicism or to Islam as well. She also said that pupils would be required to attend mandatory courses on "civic and ethical values" that emphasize human rights, civic rights, tolerance and non-discrimination. Critics said the measure was an attempt by the state to usurp parental authority over the moral education of their children.
July 12. Municipal officials in the Andalusian town of Lucena unanimously approved a project to build a Muslim cemetery. The project, which will cost local taxpayers €120,000 ($140,000), will begin in September. The Islamic Community of Lucena said that the decision "satisfies our longstanding demands" and "complies with our constitutional rights." Muslim leader Hamid Abqari added: "Now Lucena will be the city of three cultures, because it will have a Muslim, a Jewish and a Christian cemetery."
July 12-13. In a two-day period, Maritime Rescue picked up 463 (212; 251) mostly African migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to reception centers in southern Spain.
July 14. Spanish police closed the Farhana border crossing in Melilla after a Moroccan man with a knife attacked a Spanish border guard who had denied him access to Spanish territory. A representative for the Federal Union of Police (UFP) of Melilla, Antonio García, said that aggressions of this type are "a constant" at the border crossings.
July 14. Maritime Rescue and the Spanish Civil Guard picked up 340 migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to mainland Spain.
July 15. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau spent more than €6,000 ($7,000) of taxpayer money to celebrate Ramadan this year, according to the online publication OK Diario. By contrast, she has studiously avoided using the term Christmas, referring to it instead as "winter solstice." Colau also sent members of her government to the inauguration of an Islamic prayer center in the Sants district, but refused to attend the traditional Roman Catholic mass marking La Mercè, the largest annual festival in Barcelona.
July 15. A Sigma Dos poll published by the newspaper El Mundo found that 40% of Spaniards believe that mass migration is "a serious problem" for the country. Another 37% said mass migration is "a problem but not a serious one." The poll also found that 66% of Spaniards said they were opposed to Italy's hardline approach to mass migration.
July 16. The Federation of Associations of Parents of Students of the province of Castellón (FAMPA Castellón) said they had received complaints from parents opposed to a government plan to teach Islam in public schools:
"They indicate that they feel cheated by the public school and do not understand how a progressive agency such as the Ministry of Education can favor the teaching of Islamic religion, a religion that denigrates women and relegates women to second status."
Another group, Confederación Gonzalo Anaya, also said it was opposed to Islam courses, but for reasons of secularism:
"If we are in a non-confessional state and the majority of the regional and state governments are committed to a totally secular school system, we do not understand how it is possible to continue promoting the teaching of religions in the education system. Would this not amount to supporting indoctrination in the public sphere?"
July 17. Illegal migrants will be granted full access to public healthcare from the moment they set foot in Spain, according to a government plan leaked to the newspaper El País, which noted: "The cost of extending universal healthcare to undocumented migrants is unclear."
July 17. Maritime Rescue picked up 328 migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to mainland Spain.
July 18. The City of Valencia said it was exploring the possibility of providing legal cover for illegal migrants who sell counterfeit goods on public streets. The initiative was proposed by Neus Fábregas, a far-left city councilor who ironically is leading the city's efforts to boycott Israel. The plan involves getting illegal migrants off public streets by allowing them to sell their goods at city markets.
July 18. A new law entered into effect that requires Spanish public schools to offer Arabic courses as well as classes in Moroccan culture and history.
July 20. In an interview with the newspaper La Rioja, terrorism expert Fernando Reinares estimated that the number of Islamists in Spain exceeds 5,000. Most of those are Muslims who were born or raised in Spain:
"We are no longer talking about a jihadism associated with foreigners and coming from abroad, but with a jihadism closely related to individuals who were born or raised in Spain. In the whole of Western Europe, also in Spain, jihadism is a phenomenon associated with the so-called second generation, individuals born or raised in Europe, but who are descendants of immigrants from majority Muslim countries.
"The composition of jihadism in Spain tells us that it is a phenomenon that is projected from abroad, but largely comes from within — the poor adaptation in our societies of the descendants of immigrants, a bad adaptation that has much more to do with the cultural issues than with socioeconomic ones: they are not people who are in situation of marginalization or of social exclusion. These situations of detachment are not so much the result of deficient local, regional or national policies in social, health or educational matters, but the result of inherent dynamics of the Muslim congregations themselves, especially where the presence of the Salafist, fundamentalist currents is notable."
July 20. Maritime Rescue picked up 450 migrants aboard 20 rafts in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to reception centers in southern Spain.
July 21. The Islamic Commission of Spain, a Muslim umbrella group, threatened to file a lawsuit against the regional government in Valencia if it fails to offer Islam courses in public schools:
"We will go to the courts to get the Valencian government to apply the law. We do not understand this controversy, we only intend that the law be applied according to the agreement in force since 1996."
The Islamic Commission reached a deal with Valencian authorities in 2017 to begin offering Islamic courses at five schools selected as part of a pilot project. The project, however, has run into opposition from parents.
July 21-25. In a five-day period, Maritime Rescue picked up 2,147 (329; 465; 470; 484; 399) mostly African migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. It later emerged that 25 of the migrants were from Bangladesh, an indication that migrants from Asia are now using the Western Mediterranean route to reach Europe.
July 26. More than 600 sub-Saharan Africans, some using aerosols as flame-throwers, breached the six-meter (20-foot) border fence between Morocco and Spain at Ceuta. Police said the assault, which began at 6:30am, and in which migrants sprayed border guards with excrement and urine, was the most violent incursion of the border in many years. Once in Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in North Africa, migrants are in EU territory. EU human rights laws ensure that most migrants will not be deported back to their countries of origin.
July 26. The newspaper Heraldo de Aragón reported that municipal officials in Zaragoza approved the wearing of burkinis (which cover the entire body) in municipal swimming pools, but banned the wearing of t-shirts and other clothing that covers the body. The move set off a heated debate about multiculturalism and the application of double standards.
July 26-27. In two days, Maritime Rescue picked up 1,302 (414; 774+114) mostly African migrants aboard 79 rafts in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. The migrants were transferred to reception centers in southern Spain.
July 27. The newspaper El Mundo reported that 50,000 sub-Saharan Africans now in Morocco are waiting to cross over into Spain. The report said that migrants are reaching the country after paying traffickers across the Sahel and then breaching Morocco's southern border.
July 27. The Spanish government formally approved a plan to provide universal healthcare to all illegal migrants from the moment they arrive in the country.
July 28-29. In a two-day period, Maritime Rescue picked up 581 (334; 247) mostly African migrants aboard 39 rafts in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea. Dozens more disembarked on a nudist beach in Tarifa, while another 50 migrants arrived on the shores of Cartagena.
July 29. The new leader of the center-right Popular Party, Pablo Casado, warned that mass migration to Spain is unsustainable:
"It is not possible that there are residency permits for everyone, nor is a welfare state sustainable that absorbs the millions of Africans who want to come to Europe. We have to say it, even if it is politically incorrect. Let's be honest and responsible with this question."
The Spanish left was apoplectic over Casado's remarks. A spokesman for the ruling Socialist Party, Oscar Puente, accused Casado of "xenophobia" and said he would "regret" embracing the speech of the "extreme right." Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau accused Casado of "racism" and "fascism."
July 30. The newspaper El País reported that the Spanish government paid thousands of euros to repatriate family members of jihadis who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. In some cases, the money was used to pay human traffickers to drive the families from the conflict zones to the Turkish border, and for their subsequent flights to Spain. At least 14 families, mostly of Moroccan origin, traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. A police official said:
"We are taking many families out of hell. They do not have resources, money, or contacts, some do not even know how to write, but their relatives here ask us for help and we are providing it for reasons of humanity."
July 31. Police revealed that the Islamist cell which carried out the attacks in Barcelona on August 17, 2017 had originally planned to attack the Sagrada Familia cathedral, one of the leading tourist attractions in the city, and the Camp Nou football stadium during a match with a team from Madrid. Police said that if the attack, scheduled for August 20, had been carried out, it would have been the deadliest in modern European history. The plan was derailed after explosives to be used in the attack accidentally detonated in a safe house on August 16, prompting the cell to downsize its plan.
On July 31, Spanish police revealed that the Islamist cell which carried out the attacks in Barcelona on August 17, 2017 had originally planned to attack the Sagrada Familia cathedral (pictured), one of the leading tourist attractions in the city, and the Camp Nou football stadium. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
July 31. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said that Europe needs mass migration to compensate for its low birth rates: "The demographic evolution in Europe shows that unless we want to become a continent of old people, we need new sap, and it does not seem that this new sap will come from our ability to procreate."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.