Migrant worker visa freeze draws angry response

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Labour Minister’s decision to stop recruiting abroad will not help solve unemployment situation in Spain.

5 September 2008

MADRID -- Labour unions and immigrant associations lashed out on Thursday against a government plan to stop issuing visas to migrant workers, arguing that the move will do little to solve Spain's rapidly worsening employment situation and will instead encourage illegal immigration.

The decision to suspend the system that allowed businesses to turn to non-EU countries to fill vacancies they were unable to fill locally was disclosed Wednesday by Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho.

He said visas for migrant workers would be reduced to "roughly zero" in 2009 as Spain attempts to prevent unemployment from spiralling after the number of people out of work surged by 500,000 in a year.

"It's not reasonable that with 2.5 million people unemployed we continue to recruit workers from abroad," Corbacho said.

The measure would primarily affect low-skilled workers from countries with which Spain does not have guest-worker agreements. Work visas were issued to almost 200,000 migrants in 2007 and almost 90,000 have been handed out in the first seven months of 2008.

Many have traditionally been for work in the services and construction industry - sectors Spaniards have traditionally shunned. Unions and immigrant groups said the measure unfairly targets foreign workers and, despite the large number of unemployed, could cause labour shortages in some sectors.

[El Pais / A. Eatwell / Expatica]

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