More immigrants from non-European Union countries are returning to their native lands this year with help from the Spanish government, a situation similar to 2009, when the number of immigrants forced to pack up and go doubled because of the economic crisis.
According to the Spanish government official news agency EFE, the recession plus the housing and real estate bust have meant a huge loss of jobs in Spain, where the number of unemployed has soared to 4.6 million, some 20% of the workforce.
Immigrants—whose ranks have swelled over the last decade to roughly 10% of the Spanish population—suffer directly from the elimination of jobs in sectors like construction and services where many of them work, and from not having the network of family support that Spaniards have. Many Ecuadorians show up every day at the Rumiñahui Association looking for information about leaving the country, the group’s spokesman Raul Jiménez told EFE.
In the last few months, there has been a “big increase in people thinking of going home because they are virtually defenseless: no work, no unemployment benefits, no income—they’re practically living on the street,” Jimenez said. They look for any possible way of returning home, though sometimes “what stops them is that they wouldn’t be able to come back to Spain for years” if they accept the government’s plan of assistance.
The plan includes the condition that the foreign citizen who accepts it must sign a statement that he or she voluntarily makes a commitment not to return to Spain for three years. Unfortunately, the Rumiñahui spokesman said, his association cannot process the approximately 60 petitions it receives every month for lack of funds, but it does direct immigrants to a dozen other organizations that collaborate with the Spanish government in implementing the program.
A similar situation is seen at the Colombian America-Spain Solidarity and Cooperation Association, where “very many people” come looking for help, one of its spokespersons told EFE.
Argentines, Bolivians, Ecuadorians and Uruguayans, in that order, are those who have chiefly opted to accept the return ticket to their countries of origin, of the total 1,150 beneficiaries of the plan between Jan.1 and May 3, according to data provided by the Labour and Immigration Ministry.
Those who accept this aid are given help in acquiring the documents they need to return, as well as air tickets and the money they’ll need to travel and while they’re getting settled back home. The amount set aside in 2009 for this program was 6 million Euros, nearly double the amount spent in 2008.