Cablegate: Spain: Immigration Update 2007

DE RUEHMD #1597/01 2291516
R 171516Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 2006 STATE 2391

MADRID 00001597 001.2 OF 002

1. (U) SUMMARY: In 2006, Spain's population rose from
43,758,300 to 45,166,894 according to the national census. Of
the additional 1.35 million people, the majority were
immigrants. Over the last six years, the overall immigrant
population in Spain has more than doubled to 4.5 million. In
the last few years, Spain has gone from being a net recipient
of overseas-worker remittances to the world's second largest
source of such funds. But even as Spain has continued to
receive large numbers of immigrants, it has sought to counter
illegal immigration by implementing visa requirements and
increasing its focus on North and West African countries,
leading to a sharp decrease in African migration compared to
a year ago. Despite the large influx of immigrants, Spanish
polls suggest that Spaniards have the most favorable view of
immigration within the European Union, though that could
change if Spain suffers an economic slowdown or the
construction boom ends. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) According to the Spanish Census, in January 2007 Spain
had almost 4.5 million immigrants (legal and illegal) of whom
3.2 million were not EU citizens. The illegal immigrant
population in January 2007 was approximately 1 million. Most
of the immigrant population in Spain is made up of non
European Union citizens. Mid-year 2007 figures show Moroccans
representing the largest immigrant group in Spain with
approximately 575,000 Moroccans living in Spain. Other major
non-EU immigrants sources are Ecuadorians (420,000),
Colombians (260,000), Bolivians (200,000), and Argentines
(140,000), followed by China and Peru. Among fellow EU
members, the largest immigrant sources are Romania (525,000),
United Kingdom (315,000), Germany (165,000), and Italy
(115,000), followed by Bulgaria and France.


3. (U) The industry that employs the most immigrants is
construction. Most of these jobs are offered on a temporary,
contract basis and are therefore very accessible to immigrant
workers. Agricultural businesses also frequently employ
immigrants, while others find private employment in child
care and housekeeping. As a result of the increased
employment of immigrants in domestic settings, Spanish women
are entering the work force more rapidly.

4. (U) Immigration has had a positive impact on Spain's
economy. In late 2006 the GOS reported that immigration had
sparked a 30 percent growth in Spain's economy over the last
10 years and a 50 percent growth over the last five years.
Immigrants have also helped to boost employment figures by
filling 50 percent more jobs since 2001. Of the 687,500 new
jobs that were created in 2006, two thirds of those jobs were
filled by immigrants.

5.(U) Although immigration has been beneficial to Spain's
economy on a short-term scale, economists fear that in the
long-run, it will only hinder Spain's economy as some
legalized immigrants have placed a strain on the Social
Security system. As of June 2007, there were 2,034,750
immigrants included in Social Security. According to a study
performed by the Autonomous Community of Madrid, the average
immigrant contributes 1,468 euros in taxes, social security,
and VAT to the State , while the average public investment
per immigrant exceeds 2,097 euros for education, social
services and health.

6. (U) At the beginning of 2007, there were 372,000
unemployed immigrants. As a response to this negative trend,
Consuelo Rumi, Spanish Secretary of State of Immigration and
Emigration, says Spain is calling for a more "qualified
immigrant worker." The potential for a downward economic
trend could greatly impact Spain's future decisions in
immigration policy as the new policies will have to reach a
balance between maintaining the flow of immigrants and
ensuring that future immigrants are employable.


7. (U) 4. (U) Immigration into Spain is beginning to have a
measurable impact for the countries of origin as well.
Spanish immigrants are now the second largest providers of

MADRID 00001597 002.2 OF 002

remittances in the world after the US. Over the past three
years, Spain has gone from being a net recipient to a net
source of remittances. In 2006, immigrants in Spain remitted
6.8 billion euros, which represented 0.7 percent of Spain's
GDP. Almost 70 percent of the money went to Latin America; 6
percent went to Morocco, and eastern European countries
received almost 8 percent. In terms of the impact of
remittances from Spain as a percentage of receiving
countries' GDP, the numbers are: Bolivia (8.5 percent);
Ecuador (3.6 percent); Senegal (1.9 percent); Dominican
Republic (1.5 percent); Colombia (1.25 percent); Morocco
(0.91 percent); Romania (0.5 percent); Peru (0.31 percent).
COMMENT: The numbers for Africa and the Maghreb are still
relatively low, but they will undoubtedly become more
important. END COMMENT.


8. (U) While Moroccan immigrants represent the largest
proportion of immigrants in Spain as of June 2007,
immigration from Africa has decreased since 2006, due in part
to the EU's financial contributions to increase security in
the Mediterranean and along African shores, as well as
Spain's initiative to repatriate African citizens, especially
those migrating to the Canary Islands. Last summer, Spanish
media led nearly every day with photos of West African
immigrants arriving by boat to the Canary Islands. While the
total number of immigrants arriving in the first seven months
of 2006 (17,433) was relatively small, coverage of the "boat
people" stole the focus from the larger numbers of immigrants
coming by air and land from Latin America and eastern Europe.
By July 2007, after a year of Spanish diplomatic and
enforcement efforts, the numbers of boats arriving in Spain
is significantly reduced, the press coverage is limited, and
the number of immigrants much smaller (around 8,000).

9. (U) Recently the GOS has focused on cooperation with the
Moroccan Government to ensure that fewer Moroccan emigrants
perish in their attempts to enter Spain by boat. In
conjunction with FRONTEX, the EU's border patrol agency,
Spain and Morocco have stepped up maritime security patrols
both in the Mediterranean and along the West African coast.
As a result, attempts by Sub-Saharan Africans to migrate to
both the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands has
plummeted in 2007.


10. (U) Spain has done a great deal to help immigrants become
legal. A 2005 Amnesty program, which afforded Spanish
residency to approximately 700,000 illegal immigrants,
sparked controversy among EU members as leaders believed the
program to be a direct contradiction to the EU's restrictive
policy on immigration.

11. (U) The government's acceptance or even encouragement of
immigration is reflective of Spanish public opinion.
According to recent polls, 62 percent of Spanish citizens
polled said that immigration of Middle East and North African
citizens is "a good thing." Seventy-two percent of citizens
polled also took a favorable view of immigration from Eastern
Europe. Of all Western European nations, Spain had the
highest favorable opinion of immigration.

12. (SBU) COMMENT: Spain's future is in many ways dependent
on immigration, especially given its negative birth rate.
While the growing immigrant population has filled jobs and
added billions of euros to Spain's GDP, it has also brought
questions of identity and integration into play in Spain, a
nation that just a dozen years ago was almost entirely
comprised of Caucasian Roman Catholics. Like the rest of
Europe, Spain will have to grapple with the question of what
it means to be Spanish and how best to integrate its
increasingly diverse population. The Zapatero government has
taken a "we can all just get along" approach which has suited
many Spaniards quite well as they have collectively ridden
the rising economic tide to a prosperity that is rivaled only
by Spain's 16th century heyday. However, the inevitability
of a cooling in Spain's economy suggests that these issues
may ripen and provoke broader social concerns and complicated

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