CRISIS-HIT non–European immigrants are increasingly attracted by government-assisted return schemes or moving to other European countries.
“They spent their savings getting here but didn’t find what they were looking for because the good times have gone,” said Red Cross official Jose Varela.
Some lost what they had, Varela suggested. “There isn’t enough security for them to remain and they prefer to return home where the standard of living is lower and they can survive on less money.”
The government’s two programmes for returning immigrants focus on advancing their return fare or paying Spanish unemployment benefits in their home countries.
Both apply to countries which have signed agreements with Spain’s Social Security and are managed by the Red Cross and the Catholic charity, ACCEM.
Requests for help soared this year and the Red Cross gave as an example the Castilla y Leon region which saw 74 requests in 2010, compared to 67 between January and July this year – an increase of just over 90 per cent.
The Voluntary Return Programme is co-financed with Brussels’ European Return Fund and was introduced in 2003. Since then 12,906 immigrants have left Spain and returned to their countries of origin.
Not all disillusioned immigrants make their way home and a growing number leave Spain with their sights set on other European countries, particularly those who acquired Spanish nationality and can work legally in the EU.
Germany was a favourite destination, according to Maria Trinidad Varela, coordinator of the non-government organisation, ASAIN, who said many immigrants preferred to work in Europe. “Going home with nothing is hard,” she said.