Hungry for labour, Spain, threw open its doors to legal migration in 2005 without giving much thought to how it would cope with migrants if economic circumstances changed. More than 800,000 foreigners moved to Spain in 2006 alone, with the foreign population standing at 4,5 million, or 10 percent of Spain´s population in, as of early 2007. In 2008, immigrants accounted for 11.3 % of the population in Spain. Worldwide, Spain is the second to the United States in having the largest number of immigrants from Latin America.
Briefly, the number of immigrants in Spain shot uo from 500,000 people in 1996 to 5.2 million in 2008, including 2.2 million from outside the EU, out of a total population of 46 million.
However, times have changed. The construction industry which is one of the most important sectors in Spain is nearly at a stand-still and the economic is shrinking. In 2008, 623,000 immigrant workers were left unemployed. Unemployment is becoming one of the biggest concerns in the wake of the crisis. It currently stands at well over three million, or 14 percent of the workforce, the highest rate in the EU. Spain is losing jobs, at an incredible three times the rate of the US. The current economic downturn has made Spain cautions about welcoming permanent migrants, with some expressing the policy equivalent of buyer´s remorse: paying too high a price for something no longer desired. Therefore, the government offered the non-European union foreigners a deal: they can cash in their unemployment benefits for a lump of around 10,000 Euros. In exchange, they go home and agree not to come back to Spain fot at least three years.
Paying immigrants fees to flee? Is it justified? So far only 700 people in the whole of the country have been tempted to accept. For most Latinos, leaving is out of the question. A pragmatic approach of the government? – Opening first the doors to immigration during periods of growth, and closing it during times of crisis.