© 2013 jmanresa

When immigrants emigrate

The public administration is looking for the least traumatic way of dealing with this phenomena

By Ola Noureldin and Júlia Manresa

“Spain was the country that opened its doors to us,” that was what Jorge Agudelo, a Colombian doctor working in a hospital close to Barcelona said. Agudelo came into Spain three years ago along with his wife Katherine López. They came in carrying high expectations and hopes for a more stable life and better working conditions. However, as the economic crisis reached them firsthand, further life decisions had to be discussed.

According to the Spanish Statistics Office (INE) reports, the  total rate of unemployment in Spain is 26.7% while the unemployment under 25 years is 57%.

Colombians count as the 4th nationality emigrating out of Spain while they are the second emigrating out of Catalonia. This Spanish region holds the highest number of immigration throughout entire Spain. As the INE reports, Catalonia has a 23% of the entire immigrant population.

The leaving of immigrants is affecting this region on multiple levels. As Llorenç Olivé, the chief of Coordination and Territory in the Welfare and Family  Ministry in Catalonia said that the citizenship and migration plans are working to approach the issue of the return of the immigrants. The Ministry has been organizing conferences and meetings to find concrete solutions for the rising phenomenon. “The ministry has to face it, we are trying to look on how to target this process in the least traumatic way”, the chief coordinator said.

Ramon Sanahuja, director of Immigration, Interculturality and Communitarian action of the city of Barcelona explained that different programmes of voluntarily return are now provided in  the newly created office called “Service of Attention to Immigrants, Foreigners and Refugees” in the city hall.

Sanahuja added that support and advice are offered to those suffering from psychological consequence because of their return.

“The office in charge of  the family that is coming back carries a monitoring process of the family, not only regarding legal aspects, but also social and psychological”, he said.

“It is an inherent reality in migration process, we need to add it into the migration management”, he added.

Multiple loss

Olivé explains that the returnees are without a doubt a loss to Spain.  He said that no one is considered “left over” in the country.

“Immigrants bring to Catalonia more culture capital and diversity, which is a plus to any country”, Olivé added.

Not only is the Ministry aware of the loss culturally but also economically. He further explains that the government has invested a lot on the immigrants regarding job experiences for adults and education for the youth.

“Even despite budgetary cuts, we are all going to lose if the human capital that was invested in had to leave Spain.”

“Catalonia without immigrants would be less than 2 million inhabitants,”he expressed. The ministry must work to keep the link with this population so we can try to guarantee their return if they left.

“We still don’t know how to do it”

Olivé stated that it is a complex situation because the ministry has to think in a new way to deal with the families and social services. “ We still don’t know how to do it,” he said.

Elena Ribera is a politician in charge of immigration  for Convergencia i Unió, CIU, a center right independent party now in government in Catalonia. When asked about this phenomenon, she was aware of the change in migration trends but she admitted the need of extensive research and tangible solutions.

“From the Welfare and Youth department we should support them with special programs if required”, she said.

Raval is the area of Barcelona with a highest rate of immigration, 47.3%. PHOTO: Júlia Manresa

Raval is the area of Barcelona with a highest rate of immigration, 47.3%.
PHOTO: Júlia Manresa

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