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Spain: What Will Become of the 5 Million Immigrants?

Translated Sunday 21 March 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Their names are Mohamed, Khalid, or Bousekri... They’re from Morocco. They’re wondering what the future holds.

From our own correspondent.

They don’t agree on everything, but they’ve followed the same route. When they began as undocumented workers, working in the underground economy, they avoided attracting attention. Today, with a resident permit and a declared job, they meet at Averroès, the Moroccan cultural association that they have just set up in a neighborhood in the old historic center of Valencia.

Mohamed, who has eye problems nowadays, has had to give up his job as a truck driver. He fears that the economic crisis will lead to an increase in xenophobia, although, of all the former undocumented workers in the group, he is the one who has the least to fear: He has obtained Spanish citizenship. When he first arrived in Spain in 1985, he worked as a gardener and did odd jobs. But he is afraid. “They don’t give work to foreigners like us any more. And when I point out that I have Spanish citizenship, they look at me, and they laugh in my face.”

Khalid, from Fès, gives courses in Arabic. He qualifies Mohamed’s words: “Spanish society is not drenched in racism,” he points out. “There is no National Front [1] here.”

Bouzekri, a shopkeeper and the president of the cultural association, thinks that North Africans are the victims of discrimination, all the same. He cites the example of a cooperative whose workforce, not long ago, was composed mostly of immigrants. Now, it only takes on Spaniards. “They hire natives first, and then Europeans, after that South Americans. The Arabs come last.”

Spanish economic growth was based on two lies: first, that there would always be a lot of housing to be built; and secondly, that Spain could provide decent conditions for millions of immigrants, whereas the only jobs offered to them were ones without a future. And this is the conundrum which the future must answer.

[1A French fascist movement

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