Spain had a three-month legalization ending in May 2005 that drew
690,679 applications from unauthorized foreign workers, its fifth and
largest legalization program. Unauthorized foreigners in Spain at
least six months (entered before August 8, 2004) and holding work
contracts with Spanish employers for at least six more months (three
months in agriculture) could receive renewable one-year work and
residence permits. Employers generally had to legalize their
workers, but employer organizations, unions and NGOs campaigned to
enlist their cooperation.
However, the one-year work and residence permit is issued only after
the contract is validated by the Social Security administration and
the employer makes the first tax payment. As of September 2005, only
352,500 migrants had become members of the social security system,
and 34 percent were domestic helpers, 19 percent in construction and
14 percent in agriculture.
Spain’s legal foreign-born population quadrupled in less than a
decade, rising from approximately 500,000 in 1995 to two million in
2004. Nonetheless, in December 2004, Spain had an estimated 1.2
million unauthorized migrants.
In August 2005, Spain announced another legalization effort, this one
offering foreigners illegally in Spain for two years or more and
employed at least one year to apply for legal status if they report
their employer. If the unauthorized worker then receives a work
permit, he or she will be retrospectively registered with the social
security system, obliging the employer to pay back taxes.
Africans continue to try to enter southern Spain by boat from
Morocco, and 300 were intercepted in one day in early September 2005.
In 2004, 15,675 illegal migrants traveled on 740 boats that were
On several occasions in September and October 2005, hundreds of
African migrants attempted to enter Spain’s north African enclave of
Melilla from Morocco by making ladders to scale fences, prompting the
Spanish government to raise the fence from eight to 16 feet. As a
result, Morocco rounded up the African migrants camped around the
Melilla fences and took them to the Algerian border, prompting
protests from NGOs who accused Morocco of dumping migrants in the
desert. The Moroccan government began deporting sub-Saharan African
migrants in October 2005.
The EU wants Morocco to sign an agreement obliging it to accept the
return of migrants who passed through the country en route to an EU
Spain returns unauthorized Moroccans under a bilateral agreement, but
most sub-Saharan Africans who arrive in Spain are given expulsion
orders and released. Most travel to mainland Spain and disappear in
the underground economy.
Spain has 44.3 million residents, including four million foreigners.
They included 505,000 Moroccans, 492,000 Ecuadorians, 314,000
Romanians, 269,000 Colombians and 225,000 Britons. The number of
foreigners in Spain rose from 1.6 percent of the population in 1998
to nine percent in 2005.
Spain’s economy is booming, attracting immigrants as well as
Spaniards who had emigrated previously. Some 42,700 Spanish
citizens returned in 2004, including half who had been living in
South and Central America. In 2005, there were 3.7 million
foreigners registered with Spanish authorities.
EU Aid. The European Union provided aid to Portugal equivalent to
about three percent of GDP each year, a total of E50 billion, while
Spain received aid equivalent to one percent of its GDP a year, a
total of E90 billion. There is general agreement that Spain used EU
aid far more effectively than Portugal. As a result, Spain’s per
capita income rose from 70 percent of the EU average in 1986 to 90
percent of the EU average in 2004. Portugal, over the same period,
raised its per capita GDP from 55 to 75 percent of the EU average.
Spain used EU aid to improve its infrastructure, linking the country
internally and with the EU, while Portugal expanded government
payrolls, so that a seventh of Portuguese workers are now employed by
the government. Spain appears poised for further economic growth,
while Portugal is struggling with a budget deficit that threatens its
continued participation in the Euro zone.