Spain hosted 6.5 million migrants in 2013, according to the OECD “World Migration in Figures” report. Migrants comprise less than 14 percent of Spain’s 46.77 million. Although a seemingly low percentage compared to the United States’ 45.8 million migrants, the European economic crisis and the social conditions in Spain put an extra strain on migrants.
Especially affected are undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees that face conflict, poverty and perhaps persecution in their country of origin.
Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado is an organization of Valencia, Spain that helps migrants file their documents to apply for asylum as well as research and political action to aid migrant. According to their most recent report, in 2014 5,900 people applied for international protection. This is a 32 percent increase from 2013, in which only 4,500 people applied.
Although this number is lower than it was in the highest year, 2007 with more than 7,000 applications, the access to funds to support those that do receive protection. The European Union’s support is limited and has shrunk in the past three years. In 2015, €93,038,000 are available to help refugees in Spain, whereas in 2012, €102,008,000.
It is often the case that migrants take big risks, such as crossing the Mediterranean by boat or paying a smuggler, because they are promised a better life in Europe. In terms of people who are living in Spain without documentation—some that people call illegal migrants– have come to Europe in search of a better life, better opportunity compared to countries in West Africa like Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.
All over Europe, however, there has been a rise in popularity of anti-migration political parties and organizations. French Front National, Dutch Party for Freedom, and United Kingdom Independence Party gained more popularity this past year in both national parliaments and the European parliament. In Spain, not as much, but far-right wing political party España 2000 has gained more support than in the past. Within the most recent election in May, in an interview leader and founder of España 2000 Jose Louis Roberto Navarro explained that they have gained municipal representation in Valencia and Seville, for example, but have not gained seats in the national parliament.
Jose Luis Roberto Navarro claims that the problem in Spain are not the individual migrants themselves, but the upward trend of migration as a whole. In an interview with him, he said Spain’s priority needs to be to help the problems of their own people and to protect their border rather than helping anyone who wishes to come to Spain.
Other political parties in Spain including the center right-wing People’s Party and the center left-wing Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party have condemned España2000 as neo-Nazi, extremist and racist for discriminatory actions against migrants.
This rise in anti-migrant sentiment across most of Europe can be partially credited to the economic crisis. The rising debt of countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal lead to austerity measures and have contributed to high unemployment rates. Greece and Spain go back and forth for highest in all of Europe, with Greece at 25.6 percent and Spain at 22.5 percent as of April 2015, according to Eurostat. Labor has become contentious issue in relation to migrants because a lot of people blame illegal vendors for their loss of business.
These conditions depend heavily on the political and economic situation of the receiving countries. This aspect becomes a problem for Europe since the receiving countries, Italy, Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean countries do not have the necessary funds to accept and fully integrate the migrants. Refugees from places like Syria and Palestine may be able to navigate through the legal system to gain asylum and move to wealthier countries such as Germany or Scandinavian countries. Undocumented migrants, however, do not have the same mobility nor the access to legal assistance to gain documents.