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Spain’s migration policies could provide a model for European cooperation with non-EU countries
Press Release
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Spain’s migration policies could provide a model for European cooperation with non-EU countries

BRUSSELS — Spain’s approach to admitting workers from non-EU countries could inspire innovation at the EU level, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe argues in a new report, though the future direction of Madrid’s policies hinges on the outcome of the forthcoming general election.

The report, Spain’s labour migration policies in the aftermath of economic crisis, investigates long-term trends in Spanish policymaking, a crucial aspect of which has been the use of bilateral deals with non-EU countries that stipulate broader cooperation in return for accepting low and medium-skilled migrants—an idea now firmly rooted in the minds of EU policymakers.

Spain has long worked with North African countries to manage migration and, after a spike in arrivals from West African countries in 2005-2006, signed deals with several sub-Saharan African governments offering legal migration opportunities in exchange for greater cooperation on migration.

Spain’s system not only provides channels for employers to sponsor workers, but also enables recruitment of migrants from these signatory countries to work in sectors such as agriculture, construction or hospitality.

Although demand for foreign workers dried up after the economic crisis that damaged Spain’s economy in 2008, Madrid has maintained close cooperation with these countries. And the report suggests that recent signs of recovery in Spain’s economy are likely to once again herald shortages of workers in the types of jobs the local population does not want to do.

‘As Spain’s economy recovers, with growth in sectors such as construction that have relied on a largely foreign-born workforce, the government may start to increase its quotas for admitting non-EU workers’, writes Kate Hooper, author of the report.

She adds that next month’s general election could be crucial in shaping these policies. ‘For now, Spain’s population remain broadly supportive of migration; however, the ability of the government to review the country’s immigration policies may hinge on the outcome of the Spring 2019 general election’.

While polls suggest the most likely outcome of the election will be a coalition led by the Socialist Party, the far-right Vox is expected to make gains. Vox’s leader has played on fears about irregular migration from African countries, even suggesting Spain build a wall to keep migrants out.

Policymakers around Europe will be watching closely to see how Spain’s next government navigates the fluid politics of migration policy in the months ahead.

This report is part of the project ‘Legal Migration for Work and Training: Mobility options to Europe for those not in need of protection’, undertaken by the Research Unit of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration in cooperation with MPI Europe. The project is funded by the Stiftung Mercator.

Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/spain-labour-migration-aftermath-economic-crisis.