Spain's immigrant population hits 5.6 million in 2008
While the number of foreigners rose by almost 330,000 last year, latest figures show a noticeable decline in immigrants as Spain sinks depper into recession.Madrid – The number of foreigners living in Spain rose by 329,929 last year to 5.6 million, with the largest numbers of new arrivals coming from Romania, Morocco and Britain, official data showed Wednesday.
As of 1 January 2009, there were a total of 5,598,691 foreigners living in Spain, 40.5 percent of them from other European Union countries, the national statistics institute said.
Foreigners accounted for 12 percent of Spain's total population of 46,661,950, up from 11.3 percent in the previous year, it said in a statement.
Romanians make up Spain's largest foreign community with 796,576 members, followed by Moroccans with 710,401 members and Ecuadorians with 413,715.
The British make up Spain's fourth largest foreign community with 374,600 members, most of them found on the country's sunny Mediterranean coast.
The Romanian community posted the biggest increase in total numbers last year, rising by 8.9 percent, followed closed by Moroccans with 8.8 percent, which the British community increased by 6.1 percent.
The Chinese community posted the fourth-largest increase in numbers, growing by 19,511 or 15.5 percent over the previous year.
Latin Americans accounted for 28.1 percent of all foreigners in the country while Africans accounted for 17.8 percent.
Traditionally a nation that sent workers abroad, Spain has seen the flow reversed in the past decade as its economy boomed. In 1996, it had only around half a million immigrants.
Between 600,000 and 750,000 immigrants arrived in Spain annually during the peak of the boom years.
But the flow declined noticeably last year as the country entered into its first recession in 15 years when the global credit crunch worsened a correction that was already under way in the property sector, a key driver of growth.
The number of Bolivians living in Spain fell by 6.3 percent, Argentinians by 4.7 percent and Ecuadorians by 3.3 percent, the latest figures showed.
A large proportion of Latin American immigrants to Spain are employed in the service sector and construction, which have been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn.
The Madrid goverment in November began offering financial compensation to legal immigrants to return home to some 19 countries from outside the European Union with which Spain has a reciprocal social security agreement.
AFP / Expatica