Posted on September 5, 2008

Spain to Withhold Visas for Migrant Workers

Jason Webb, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), September 5, 2008

SPAIN, where unemployment is rising rapidly, will stop issuing visas to most migrant workers.

No more visas will be granted to low-skilled workers, such as those employed in restaurants and shops, a spokeswoman for the labour and immigration ministry said yesterday.

She said the government would also insist that companies prove they cannot fill posts in Spain before bringing in foreign workers. She did not say when the measures would take effect.

Celestino Corbacho, the employment minister, said on Wednesday that the government would cut the number of work visas “to roughly zero” in 2009.

“It doesn’t seem reasonable that with 2.5 million unemployed, we continue to recruit workers from abroad,” said Mr Corbacho, who wants to pay unemployed foreigners to return to their countries. About 180,000 foreign workers arrived in Spain last year.

Unemployment has leapt by 500,000 in a year as the construction boom has evaporated. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the socialist prime minister, who announced an amnesty to about 700,000 illegal immigrants soon after he took office in 2004, has done a U-turn on immigration since being re-elected.

In March’s poll, the opposition conservatives won working-class support by playing on fears about Spain’s growing Muslim community. The conservative Popular Party welcomed the visa crackdown.

“This is going in the right direction,” said a spokesman before calling for more action to stop illegal immigration. Spain’s immigrant population has risen to 10 per cent of the population from nominal levels a decade ago, with mainly low-paid workers arriving from Latin America, Morocco, Asia, eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.