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Back to España, país de emigrantes (otra vez)

Alban d'Entremont, Director of department of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Navarra, Spain

Spain, country of emigrants (again)

Thu, 24 Feb 2011 12:56:18 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

A few days ago an unusual event took place: a Malian was arrested by the Spanish police trying to jump the fence between Ceuta and Morocco. The unusual thing is that he was not coming from Morocco to enter Spain, but fleeing from Spain to enter Morocco.

Surely, it will be a mere anecdote, and this subject incident will not be repeated. Or maybe it will. At the same time, Mrs. Merkel made a lightning trip to Madrid, giving the Government some breathing space with the statement that "Spain is doing its homework, that it is doing well". Economics apart, my knowledge of demography leads me to understand that what the illustrious visitor has said is totally unfounded.

I am not referring to the unemployment figures, nor to the current climate of economic insecurity, nor to a policy that seems to cover up a strong improvisation and a succession of promises that we know will not be fulfilled.

I am referring to a phenomenon that has been growing in recent weeks, which has to do with the Malian and with Mrs. Merkel: the exodus of people outside Spain's borders, after decades of immigration, and Merkel's own call for half a million Spaniards to move to work in Germany, whose Economics -that yes- "is doing well".

Angela Merkel contradicts herself. Not long ago, she solemnly proclaimed that multiculturalism had failed in Germany, as well as the plans for the integration of immigrants. Now, she is putting aside her political, cultural and social principles to serve her economic expediency.

Spain is once again expelling people abroad. Thus, a multi-secular trend is resumed. And contrary to what the German Chancellor says, it is an unmistakable sign that the Spanish Economics "is not going well at all", and that there is still a lot of "homework" to be done.

In every outward movement, there are "push factors" that drive people to leave their homeland and seek a new life elsewhere: the scarcity of work or the impossibility of social or economic advancement in their own country. This happened in Spain throughout the centuries; poverty and lack of opportunities drove many people to emigrate in search of a better life in some "land of promise".

In today's Spain, a second migratory stage has begun, characterized by a slowdown in immigration and an increase in emigration. The latter is not yet very high, but its rise is significant, as is the expectation that has arisen around the new "land of promise", which, once again, is Germany.

The deep economic crisis in Spain and the very high incidence of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, to a large extent, explain this reissue of an old trend, which was thought to have been overcome. Spaniards who leave the country do not find, in today's Spain, a worthy space for promotion staff.

In the 1960s, Spanish emigrants were not prepared to integrate into another society, even if it was only hundreds of kilometers away, in Europe itself. They were placed in low-skilled jobs, with the aim of accumulating capital and the idea of returning to home country. It was a majority of single men, who had no intention of assimilating the ways (language, habits and customs) of their destination, but they learned a lot, returned and helped a lot to forge the "Spanish miracle" of the last years of Franco's regime. We owe them a great deal.

The Spanish emigrant of today, on the other hand, is a person of both sexes with a high level of education, who is looking for opportunities that he/she does not find in Spain. Their emigration is facilitated by communications and transportation, and the knowledge of languages.

This encourages integration and accentuates the possibility of staying in the country of destination, without returning to the country of departure. Losing a contingent of young and qualified people is an indisputable indicator of the failure of the economic and social policy in Spain, which has not been able to implement adequate mechanisms, and a favorable climate, to retain this contingent of prepared young people.

We do not know what the future directions or results of this new emigration will be in the short and medium term deadline, since trends can change at any time, as the economic and social situation changes. But emigration is always a clear sign of a deficient status, especially economic, prevailing in the place of origin, and the exodus of qualified young people, in addition, comes to worsen this lack status .

The reality of the bad status of today's Spain, as far as we can see, was perfectly captured by the Malian, but it seems that Mrs. Merkel still does not know it.