However, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled in 2007 that immigrant workers should be allowed the same working rights as others in Spain, provided they have a valid work permit (Diaz, 1). While this is designed to assist migrant workers, the implementation of the new regulations remains to be enforced.
Unemployment among these immigrants is on the rise, as well. While unemployment in Spain for nationals is at an all time high of over eleven percent, unemployment for immigrants is up over sixty seven percent. By August of 2007, over 280,000 immigrants were receiving unemployment (Abend, 1).
In response to this, Spain has developed a Plan of Voluntary Return. The Plan is designed to allow legal unemployed immigrants from outside the EU to receive unemployment benefits from Spain in a lump sum payment, as long as they leave the country and return to their homeland for no less than three years. Forty percent of their unemployment payout is then awarded prior to departing, with the other sixty percent arriving once they return home (Abend, 1). However, as critics point out, such a move is unlikely to gather many followers (Diaz, 1).
In addition to employment difficulties, housing presents another problem. Housing prices in general rose between 2005 and 2006 by nearly one hundred twenty five percent. The number of rental properties decreased to only ten percent of overall housing due to low mortgage rates in an economic boom. Rents for those properties left have risen substantially. In addition, the number of protected dwellings, or those whose rent and price are controlled, has dropped from thirty percent to less than eight percent (Miguelez, 1).
The result for immigrants is a lack of affordable housing. Only those with high incomes and stable positions are able to qualify for thirty or forty year mortgages required to pay for private housing. In addition, the transient nature of immigrant employment means less ability to purchase housing, and a higher likelihood to rent property. With rents increasing, many find themselves in substandard housing for twice the rate expected for such housing (Miguelez, 1).
Still another danger for immigrants entering Spain is related to medical care. Emergency care in Spain is free to anyone, regardless of nationality or residency, which benefits both legal and illegal immigrants. However, primary and specialized health care are often underused by immigrants due to a variety of factors. Without legal papers, such services are denied to illegal immigrants. Additionally, hectic work schedules leave little time for doctor appointments for routine care. Further, without sufficient translators, access to medical care is barred for many immigrants. Finally, cultural beliefs may stop immigrants from using primary care resources, even if available (Cots, et al., 9).
Part of the problem with this perceived lack of access to health care comes in the form of disease among immigrant population. Studies have shown that antibodies for diseases such as rubella are much higher in children of indigenous populations than immigrant children, showing a clear need for vaccinations among immigrant women, and particularly those of child birthing age (Dominguez, et al. 562). Additionally, sexually transmitted diseases tend to be higher among immigrants (Folch, et al. 178).
Another problem faced by immigrants entering Spain is violence. In 2005, the international doctors' organization Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) in Spanish, submitted a report that highlighted a large amount of violence against immigrants in Spain (5). According to the report, over 2,000 people treated by the organization had injuries resulting from violence towards them at the hand of either border guards or Spanish residents (MSF, 7). In over 1,000 of the cases, either the Moroccan or Spanish police forces were blamed, while the rest came at the hand of organized gangs (MSF, 8). The violence recorded in the report include lesions, bruising, sprains, burns, fractures, rape, and gunshots (MSF, 8).
According to the report, illegal sub-Saharan immigrants are often the focus of extreme human rights violations. In urban and rural areas alike, systematic raids are conducted, which often result in the use of excessive force and violence (MSF, 10). The raids are conducted by either security forces or civilians, and result in wounds, fractures, burns, and sometimes death. In addition, security forces take the few valuables belonging to the immigrants, and in some cases destroy their makeshift homes in rural areas (MSF, 11). Immigrants are denied access to transportation or held for questioning even if their status is legal (MSF, 13). Those found to be illegal are transferred to prisons, or abandoned at the Moroccan-Algerian border without food or water (MSF, 13).
In addition to this type of violence, there are skirmishes between police and immigrants. In September of 2008, for example, a Senegalese man was killed trying to break up a fight. Following the stabbing death, enraged African immigrants set fire to houses and vehicles. Four protesters were arrested after two police officers sent to the area were injured (CNN, 1). In El Ejido in 2000, 80 people were injured and 55 Spaniards were arrested following days of rioting. The riots were initiated after a 26-year-old local woman was killed by a Moroccan immigrant, which was the third death in less than one month blamed on immigrants. Spaniards attacked the homes and farms of immigrants in response (Migration News, 8).
In addition to violence, immigrants often have to face social rejection or judgment. In a 2003 report by Sigma-dos, nearly half of all respondents believed immigration had a direct impact on crime rates (National Focal Point of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), 19). Another 2003 study shows Spaniards to be highly racist, although this racism was seen as much more subtle than in the past. The majority of those in the study believed that immigrants were to blame for their own social exclusion and unemployment, as a result of their cultural differences (EUMC, 25). The EUMC reported that the social rejection of immigrants in Spain was a result of a fear in society that immigrants would bring unwanted change to the culture of Spain, would take jobs away from nationals, and would cause an increase in crime (EUMC, 30).
It is clear that immigration has helped Spain to become a thriving country, in that it brought cheaper labor and a higher amount of individuals willing to work in lower employment positions, allowing the building boom of the country to occur. Originally, illegal aliens were even welcomed, and given opportunities to obtain gainful citizenship. However, over time, as unemployment has risen, housing costs have risen, and the housing market has taken a downturn, immigrants in Spain now find themselves unwelcome. Many are killed en route, and those who do make it to Spain often find themselves immediately dumped outside of the border. Those who do manage to stay are subjected to lower incomes, a lower standard for working conditions and housing, violence, and social stigmata. While Spain is currently attempting to take steps to improve the situation, such as offering incentives for immigrants to return home and offering few, if any, outside work visas, it is clear from the rising violence and outrage among immigrants that the situation will soon be out of control. Unless more protections are put into place, the future for many of Spain's immigrant population may be bleak.
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Alfieri, Carlos. "SPAIN: Immigrants Make the Economy Grow." InterPress Service. 30 August 2006. IPS. 15 November 2008. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=34509.
Amnesty International. "Spain: The Southern Boarder." Amnesty International. 2007. AI Index: EUR 41/008/2005. Amnesty International. 15 November 2008. http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=D095D2398CF720C98025700A00634EBE.
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CNN. "Immigrant's Death Sparks Spain Violence." CNN. 8 September 2008. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/09/08/spain.immigrants.violence.ap/index.html.
Corral, Antonio. "Immigrants Benefit Economy but Experience Poor Working Conditions." Eironline. 19 February 2007. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. 15 November 2008. http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2007/01/ES0701039I.htm.
Cots, Francesc, Castells, Xavier, Garcia, Oscar, Riu, Marta, Felipe, Aida, and Vall, Oriol. "Impact of Immigration on the Cost of Emergency Visits in Barcelona (Spain)." BMC Health Services Research 7.2 (2007): 9-11.
Diaz, Juan. "Constitutional Court Recognizes Collective Labor Rights of Illegal Migrant Workers." Eironline. 21 April 2008. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. 15 November 2008. http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2008/02/articles/es0802019i.htm.
Dominguez, Angela, Plans, Pere, Espunes, Jordi, and Costa, Josep. "Rubella Immune Status of Indigenous and Immigrant Pregnant Women in Catalonia, Spain." European Journal of Public Health 17.6 (2007): 560-564.
Duncan, Robert. "Immigration in Spain -- a profile." RenewAmerica. 27 December 2007. RenewAmerica.us. 15 November 2008. http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/duncan/071227.