EQUAL TIMES  Fanny MALINEN 29/12/15

“We cannot understand how you can end up in prison just for selling things on the streets. Surviving is not a crime,” says Khalifa Clandestino, a worker, organiser and artist in Barcelona.

Manteros Barcelone 31/12/2015 - Photo Nicolas Rogier

Manteros Barcelone 31/12/2015 – Photo Nicolas Rogier

Originally from Senegal, Khalifa works with Tras La Manta(‘Behind the cloth’ in English, which refers to the fabric on which they lay their merchandise), a collective of workers and activists that helps migrant street vendors to fight for their right to work.

However, it is not considered an official trade union because most of its members do not have the legal right to live or work in Spain.

Street vending without an allocated pitch is illegal in the country, yet in Barcelona, a few hundred manteros have no

Manteros Barcelone 31/12/2015 - Cliché Nicolas Rogier

Manteros Barcelone 31/12/2015 – Cliché Nicolas Rogier

choice but to earn a living this way. These migrant sellers – mainly from Senegal but also from other countries in Africa and Asia – sell bags, trainers and other cheap accessories to tourists.

As they are undocumented migrants they cannot work formally, but the illegality of their activity creates a conflict : whenever the vendors settle in a location, the police evict them.

This is why they recently took to the streets to protest.

On 16 November 2015, hundreds of manteros and their supporters marched to the City Hall to demand recognition. This was followed by a series of ‘flash occupations’ ; the council is now in negotiationsabout integrating the manteros into the formal economy.

The programme, which is expected to cost €1.7million and will run until 2018, consists mostly of social assistance and creating a co-operative.

However, it seems these measures will only be extended to legal migrants, who are in the minority amongst manteros. Legal street vendors, who sell everything from cheap souvenirs to artisan crafts – have also been invited to participate in the talks, but they have refused.

As legal street vendors pay fees over €500 a month to be able to work in Barcelona, they worry about the competition that manteros create.

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