Jobless immigrants in Spain return home with money

8th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

About 10,000 unemployed immigrants have applied for compensation from the government to return to their country of origins.

Madrid – About 10,000 unemployed immigrants have taken advantage of a Spanish programme to compensate them if they return to their country of origin, Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho said Monday.

The figure includes the number of jobless immigrants who have taken advantage of the so-called "voluntary return programme" as well as their family members, he said during an interview with Onda Cero.

"This programme should not be seen as a way to expel immigrants but rather as an instrument that could be used to return home" at a time when Spain is facing a recession and the unemployment rate is near 18 percent, he added.

When the scheme came into effect in November 2008, the government estimated that up to 100,000 people would qualify and between 15 to 20 percent would apply for the compensation.

Under the plan immigrants qualify for two lump-sum payments if they return to their native country and give up their right to live and work in Spain for at least three years.

After that period they can apply to return to Spain although they are not guaranteed re-admission.

Media reports have put the average compensation sum at around EUR 10,000.

To qualify an unemployed immigrant must be from one of 19 countries outside the European Union with which Spain has a reciprocal social security agreement and be living in Spain legally.

Spain entered into its first recession in 15 years during the second half of 2008 as the global credit crunch worsened a correction that was already under way in its key property sector.

In media interviews, immigrants cite a reluctance to give up their hard-won right to work in Spain and financial commitments such as mortgages as reasons for not applying for the programme.

Many also say they would be embarrassed to return home with little to show for their time in the country or express concern that economic prospects in their home countries are even bleaker than in Spain.

The number of immigrants in Spain shot up from 500,000 in 1996 to 5.2 million currently, including 2.2 million from outside the EU, out of a total population of 46 million.

AFP / Expatica

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