Non-EU immigrant workers to be encouraged to return home

The Spanish Government has approved a new draft plan which will see non-EU foreign workers encouraged to ‘go home’.

With the economy on the edge of recession, economic growth in the second quarter a measly 0,1% and unemployment standing at over 10%, the Government is adopting a more pragmatic approach to immigrant labour. In times of growth, open the door, in times of crisis, close the door.

The new Voluntary Return Assistance Plan is expected to come into effect some time in November and according to Government estimates, up to 100,000 people receiving unemployment benefits could benefit from the measure.

Unemployed immigrants would receive their benefits, averaging around €7,000, in two instalments, 40 percent in Spain after they have signed on to the program and the remainder in their country of origin 30 days after the first payment.

The Voluntary Return Assistance Plan is aimed at immigrants from 19 countries with which Spain has already signed bilateral treaties in the areas of health and unemployment insurance, although the option remains open to negotiate similar agreements with other interested countries.

Immigrants who sign up for the new plan must pledge to not come back to Spain within a period of three years. After this period, those who do return would fully recover the rights they had accumulated.

Spain has a population of 45 million which now includes 5.2 million immigrants, 2.2 million of whom are from outside the EU. Back in 1996, the immigrant population stood at 500,000.

During the boom years, Spain received a large number of immigrants from Latin America, Morocco and eastern Europe and many of them have been adversely affected by the economic downturn, especially those working in the construction sector.

Many foreign workers would be recruited in their country of origin and be in possession of valid work contracts before ever setting foot on Spanish soil, but this is all changing as the economic crisis begins to bite. Recent initiatives in Huelva for the upcoming strawberry season have seen agreements reached whereby employment is first being offered to unemployed Spanish nationals before overseas workers are brought in.

It remains to be seen whether the new plan will have the desired effect. For families, it may be that the subsidy is not sufficiently tempting in view of relocation costs and, in many cases, lack of employment or housing when they get back to their home country. Their will also be such things as quality of education for their children to be considered.

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