Ana Viseu on 9 Feb 2001 18:07:42 -0000

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[nettime-lat] Imigracao na Penisula Iberica/Imigracion en la PeninsulaIberica

[The Economist publicou ontem um artigo muito interessante sobre a 
imigracao ilegal na peninsula iberica. O artigo foca nao so os numeros e a 
necessidade que tanto Portugal como Espanha tem de mao de obra, mas tambem 
as leis que regem esta imigracao. Ambos paises capitalizam na tradicional 
benevolencia e abertura relativamente aos imigrantes, mas este artigo 
demonstra que talvez as mentalidades ja nao sejam as mesmas. Cumprimentos. Ana]

[The Economist publico ayer un articulo muy interesante sobre la imigracion 
ilegal en la Peninsula Iberica. El articulo enfoca no solamente los numeros 
y la necesidad que ambos paises tienen de mano de obra, pero tambien las 
leyes de imigracion y sus cambios. Portugal y Espana capitalizan en su 
tradicional apertura a los imigrantes, pero este articulo demuestra que a 
lo mejor esta mentalidad ya no existe.]
(feb. 08, 2001)

Unwelcome to Iberia

Spain and Portugal used to export workers. Now both countries import them, 
often illegally. Their experience reflects Europe’s confusion over immigration

GABRIEL BARRANCO runs a business in Almeria province, in deep-south Spain. 
He needs workers for the plastic hot-houses where he grows vegetables, year 
round, for northern Europe. Mustafa, an illegal Moroccan immigrant, lives 
in a shanty town on the edge of El Ejido, centre of the irrigation-based 
horticultural boom that has made this once semi-desert one of the richest 
areas in Spain.
He wants work. Yet under a new anti-immigration law, Mr Barranco would risk 
a heavy fine were he to hire Mustafa.

The new law, which has just come into effect, is the unaided work of 
Spain’s centre-right government. It tightens an earlier law put through in 
1999 with the agreement of all political parties in the government’s first 
term: the previous rules were too lax, said the interior minister, Jaime 
Mayor Oreja, arguing that Spain could not assimilate the heavy flow of 
immigrants that has been coming from Latin America, North and sub-Saharan 
Africa and Eastern Europe.

He had a point. A year ago El Ejido saw ugly clashes between its native 
citizens and immigrant workers that had to be quelled by riot police. 
Racial tensions have spilt out in other places. When foreigners were few, 
Spaniards prided themselves on not being racist. They’re not sure now. Even 
now, only
1m of Spain’s 40m inhabitants are legal immigrants; and over half hail from 
northern Europe, pensioners many of them, living comfortably on the coast.
Asylum-seekers are relatively few. Yet half the Spaniards quizzed by a 
think-tank admit to being suspicious of foreigners.

Until the 1970s, Spain exported labour. But as Spaniards became richer and 
better educated they turned their backs on menial jobs in farming, domestic 
service and construction. Despite unemployment, still high though much less 
so than a few years ago, there are some jobs that few but immigrants will 
now accept. The pay and living conditions are poor, the security little, 
the risks run on the way to Spain quite largeten Moroccans were drowned 
this week when their dinghy sank, just offshore, near Tarifa, at the 
peninsula’s southern tip. But what are meagre wages to a Spaniard are 
riches to a Moroccan or Ecuadorean and the family he remits them to. So in 
people flow.

The new law seeks to regulate the numbers coming, to change the attitudes 
of employers used to relying on illegal workers and to crack down on the 
crooks who smuggle them in. Most controversially, it also makes provision 
for the expulsion of illegals, who are reckoned, by some counts, to total 
as many as 500,000. That requires agreements with their home countries. 
Spain is beefing up an existing one with Morocco, has just signed one with 
Ecuador, and is negotiating with Colombia and Poland. These deals would set 
annual quotas, and make arrangements for would-be immigrants to get Spanish 
residency papers before setting off. But illegals in Spain hail from 50-odd 

The government says it is tightening controls not just on Spain’s behalf 
but Europe’s. Spain was getting a reputation, it says, as a place where it 
was easy to obtain legal status and then move on. And indeed businessmen in 
places like Almeria complain that they help immigrant workers get papers, 
only to have them disappear soon after.

The immigrants have reacted to the new law with fear and anger, especially 
illegals whose applications to be allowed to stay were refused in the past 
year. The law severely curbs rights granted in the earlier one: illegal 
immigrants may no longer strike or organise protests. Still, some have 
occupied churches, begun hunger strikes and even pleaded directly to King 
Juan Carlos.

Their countries of origin are getting uneasy. Ecuador is reluctant to take 
back its 150,000 estimated illegals in Spain; Spain has offered to pay 
their fares, and take them back in batches of 40,000 a year. But only a few 
hundred signed up on February 5th, when the lists for voluntary 
repatriation were opened. Mr Mayor Oreja has assured Morocco that he has no 
plan to start a “Moor-hunt” redolent of those 500 years ago, after Muslims 
(and Jews) were kicked out. Why pass the law, argues Spain’s Socialist 
opposition, unless he means to implement it?

Down in El Ejido, Mustafa and his fellow Moroccans have had a late-night 
visit from local police warning them that their shacks are going to be 
pulled down; a first step, they fear, to expulsion. In an office at the 
other end of town, Mr Barranco worries about foreign firms’ threats to 
boycott El Ejido because of the immigrants’ plight. He complains that the 
politicians are out of touch and out of their depth. “We need workers,” he 
insists. “The administration is either ignorant of the real situation or 
inefficient. Or both.”


In Portugal the story is much the same. God’s successful strategy for 
halting construction of the Tower of Babel wouldn’t work there. With a 
second Lisbon airport and new stadiums for the Euro 2004 football 
championship to be built, on many a construction site you can hear 
Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian and Moldovan, as well as Arabic and a wide 
variety of African dialects and patois. Communication, in rudimentary 
Portuguese or English, is difficult, but the work gets done.

Portugal for decades used to export labour: in the 1960s, up to 100,000 
Portuguese emigrated each year, and maybe 2.5m, equivalent to a quarter of 
the domestic population, still live abroad. Their remittances home remain 
an important source of foreign exchange and family incomes. But now 
relative prosperity is pulling in migrants from Central and Eastern Europe, 
as well as the traditional flow of workers from ex-colonies in Africa. At a 
construction site in the Algarve recently, inspectors found 37 of the 200 
workers were illegal immigrants.

Portugal has always viewed itself as racially tolerant and receptive to 
foreign cultures. Nearly 200,000 foreigners live there legally, about half 
of them Africans; in 1974, the year before Portugal freed its African 
colonies, there were only 32,000. Illegals are officially put at 35,000, 
unofficially at more like 200,000. That would make 400,000 in all, 4% of 
the population, not much by European standards. And they are needed: with 
official unemployment down to 3.5%, labour is short. But the new inflows 
have been enough to strain tolerance and make immigration a big political 
issue, for the first time.

Many of the newcomers live in appalling conditions in shanty towns close to 
the bridges or shopping centres that they build. Smuggling rings, thought 
to have links to East European mafias, ruthlessly exploit those who are 
Migration from Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau has produced virtual ghettoes. 
The first generation was ready to accept appalling hardships, to escape 
absolute poverty. They want better for their children. So do the children. 
Tensions will build up if it doesn’t happen. It may not. Bishop Januario 
Torgal Ferreira recently lamented “the tragic silence of a nation that 
could not care less about its immigrants.” Actually, many Portuguese do 
carebut in just the opposite way from what he would hope.

What is to be done? In 1992 and 1996, amnesties for illegal immigrants 
helped to draw in more. Now Portugal has gone the other way: a new law aims 
to discourage illegal immigration by the issue of temporary work permits, 
based on the forecast need for labour. Negotiations on official programmes 
are under way with Ukraine and Romania.

Will it work? No, say immigration specialists: the law rests on an illusion 
that immigrants will go home when their permits expire. Inhumane anyway, 
says the left and the church. Witness Bishop Torgal Ferreira: “Foreigners 
will be let in for five years to build soccer stadiums, exploited by 
capitalist sharks and then kicked out.” In fact, as elsewhere in the EU, 
they are likely to stay.

Tudo vale a pena se a alma não é pequena.

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