The interview was conducted with Christina Faraco. She has studied Political Science and Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid and is living in Germany since 1998, where she has been working on research projects on the field of migration (European Migration Center). Since 2009 Christina was responsible for different mobility projects and in 2013 founded “La Red e.V.“, an association supporting new immigrants in Berlin. Currently she works at the Competence Center of Immigration of “Minor – Projektkontor für Bildung und Forschung e.V.”.
“If we are thinking about the future we need to find win-win situations. I think we should have more attention to what we are doing and what will happen in fifty years”
What kind of historical experience with migration and immigrants does your country have?
Spain has a tradition as an emigrant country. We sent many Spanish people to other countries, also to Germany in the 1960’s. Therefore Germany has a lot of experience with Spanish Gastarbeiter. In this context, Spain learned from the experience of how positive it could be to welcome immigrants, since having a large number of people emigrate also has consequences for development and economic growth of one’s own country.
Spain accepted a huge number of immigrants over the last decade, rising from 1,5 million to over 6 million. I was very proud to see how Spanish people with an open mind accommodate this many people in a short period of time. But in comparison to other European countries, Spain did not develop a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment. It was clear that we had a period of economic growth, with possibilities to integrate them into the labour market, which contributed to this development. Furthermore the Spanish government reacted immediately by developing many policies for integration, not only in terms of labour market integration, but also educational programs and integration programs. Even when analyzing the public financial crisis and the involvement of migrants, the progress already made by migrants and within migrant policy is outstanding.
Lately the refugee crisis was frequently discussed in Spain. Again, I am very proud of the position of the Spanish population. At the moment, within the context of the financial crisis, the Spanish government claims that it is not possible to accept many refugees. But everybody else disagrees with the idea that Spain could only take 5000 refugees. It is something we don’t understand within the population. We are an open society and we want to help. We experienced a similar situation within our civil war when so many Spanish people had to leave the country. So we want to help. This is not the first time that a lot of cities and communities say: “I despise what the government is saying. We are going to help, so therefore we will design all the necessary policies and we will open our gates and resources to be able to accommodate and support refugees.”
Current national migration policy – what are the challenges?
There are different topics right now. We had that topic in 2012 when the government of Mariano Rajoy, in the context of the financial crisis, adopted a legislative decree limiting health care for irregular immigrants. Many regional governments announced their refusal to this law and this led to an intense debate within the political parties. In terms of migration we have two issues: what is happening to young people who went abroad, when they had a job opportunity in another country? So what can be done in order to offer them opportunities in Spain? And the second thing is of course the question whether Spain will open its frontiers to more incoming refugees.
Current European migration policy – what are the challenges? What direction should it take: restrictive approach to migration and asylum policies, selective labour migration or “open-borders” policy?
I think you have to differentiate between migration policy and refugee policy. In terms of intra-European migration (intra EU-mobility) you just have to establish a mechanism providing equal treatment with no legal conditions to restrict mobility because I think this is something we cannot restrict. I like to use the term “trying migration“. In our temporary context we are living in, everybody who comes here is just trying to make a living. It is not like 40 years ago with Gastarbeiter who came with their families for a long-term stay.
This was a different context, it was really difficult to make the decision to go back to the former own country. Nowadays we are talking about young people who “try migration”, who want to go somewhere for a year and just want to give it a try. In that sense we have to open up and to work together to make laws in all countries similar so that people do not have to be dealing with so many complicated procedures within different legislation systems in Europe.
Then there is also the topic of immigration from the third, non-EU countries. It is something we have to regulate and where we have to look individually into the countries to see what kind of relations and what possibilities of cooperation are there. Of course, if we are thinking about the future we need to find win-win situations. You cannot, for instance, extract everybody who is working in health sector from the Philippines because this would cause structural problems in there. I think we should pay more attention to what we are doing and what will happen in fifty years.
In terms of asylum we have the Common European Asylum System and we have to respect it. We can talk about how to improve it, or how to optimise the process. I do not like how the EU is responding to the current humanitarian emergency.
Let’s focus on bilateral relations: How would you assess the bilateral relations between your country and Germany?
Bilateral relations at the policy level have traditionally been good. Spain is always trying to have a good relation with Germany, as Germany is an important state within the European Union and it is important to understand each other. If you ask people, they will tell you that Germany is the country that made Spain suffer in this crisis. You won’t find many people in Spain telling you that they like Germany.
There were many bad experiences and it is convenient and popular to blame Germany. The fact that a lot of well-qualified young people suffering the financial crisis emigrated to Germany has been evaluated negatively. So it is different than in the past, due to the crisis. Spain has also very good relations with Greece and everything that happened within the last two years was really shocking for many Spanish people. You could feel the frustration caused by the impact of austerity policies. I think we will see how Spain is changing its policies and its position in Europe, like in austerity policies. Yet no one wants to introduce these policies. Instead, more money has to be invested in human rights or social policies if we get a new government. Everything that was cut has to be regained now. I’m not sure if they will succeed but they will be trying.