Estació de França train station, formerly known as “Barcelona-Término”, was where thousands of immigrants arrived in Catalonia from the rest of Spain in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The Francoist authorities forced many of these newcomers to return to their place of origin once more. Previously, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), França station had also been the departure point for thousands of people going into exile in France, fleeing from the advancing Francoist troops.
In the 1940s, unprecedented migration to Catalonia began, lasting three decades, mainly to Barcelona and its metropolitan area, which had an emerging industry. Immigrants arrived in their thousands, mostly from rural regions in the rest of Spain, but also from other parts of Catalonia, with the aim of finding work there given the demand for a workforce. Between 1955 and 1975, Catalonia’s population doubled in size due to this wave of migration, amounting to 5,657,800 inhabitants by the year of Franco’s death. Nevertheless, this immigration did not only stem from economic reasons, but also political motives as many people that had supported the Republic during the Civil War fled their places of origin to avoid reprisals by the Franco regime.
Most of these immigrants came to Catalonia by train, arriving in the railway station Estació de França. Thousands of immigrants from Andalusia came with the express train known as the “El Sevillano”, which ran across the Iberian Peninsula from north to south and east to west. Today, at the History of Immigration Museum in Sant Adrià de Besòs, visitors can see one of the train’s carriages as a symbol of the major population movements in those difficult times.
In 1952, in response to this migratory phenomenon, which gave rise to large slum areas in Barcelona’s industrial belt, Civil Governor Felipe Acedo issued a communiqué calling on town and city authorities in the province to prevent people without legal residence and work contracts to enter and stay on their territory. To implement this measure, the police took action in Estació de França train station itself, deploying both uniformed and plainclothes officers from the Evacuation Service. Once detained, the newcomers were transferred to the Palau de les Missions in Montjuïc, one of the pavilions built for the Universal Exposition of 1929 which was turned into a detention and classification centre for immigrants. Once identified and classified, the immigrants were repatriated to their places of origin from here. Between 1952 and 1957, almost 15,000 people were sent home having passed through the Palau de les Missions.
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