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By Philippe Legrain 3 COMMENTS

I’m delighted that Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them is being published in Spanish by Intermón Oxfam. The official launch is on 11 June at the Madrid Book Fair, where I’ll be speaking (in Spanish).

The Spanish-speaking world is at the heart of the global debate about migration. Mexico is the biggest source of emigrants in the world, and the money they send home exceeds what the economy receives in foreign direct investment.

Spain was until recently a country of emigration too, but its economic success has transformed it into
one of immigration. In fact, it has received more migrants in recent years than anywhere else in Europe – and far more, as a share of its population, than the United States has.

Migrants, in turn, have helped drive the economy’s dynamism. Living standards in Spain last year overtook Italy’s: as Italians are loath to admit, Spaniards now do it better.

Far from costing Spaniards their jobs, all these newcomers have contributed to a huge rise in the employment rate. And while the economy has recently taken a turn for worse, immigrants are not to blame: other factors, notably the bursting of a property bubble, are responsible.

In future, Spain will need more migrants, not less, not least because its society is ageing and its economy requires people with different perspectives to help drive innovation and growth.   

Spain is also, in a sense, the gateway to Europe: a stone’s throw – or a boat ride – away from Africa. So its immigration policy matters to the rest of Europe, and its experience to another country with poor neighbours to its south: the United States.

Spain’s experience in Ceuta and Melilla shows that high-tech border walls don’t keep out migrants. Meanwhile, its mass regularisation of illegal migrants in 2005 – call it an amnesty if you prefer – was a huge success, not only for the migrants themselves, but for society as a whole.

All the more reason why one must hope that Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Zapatero, will block Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposals for an EU immigration pact that would commit European governments not to resort to mass regularisation in future.

I’m particularly delighted that Inmigrantes is being published by the development NGO Intermón Oxfam. As they bravely and rightly recognise, migration is at the heart of development.

EU immigration rules that try to prevent Africans from working in Europe are just as unfair as EU trade rules that keep out their farm produce.

Opening up our borders to people from poorer countries would not only do more to help the poor than any other public policy measure; it is a moral imperative.

It is time for other development NGOs, progressive politicians, and all those who believe in human rights, global justice and international solidarity to place freedom of movement for all at the heart of their campaigns.

If you believe the world is unfair and we should do more to help the poor, you should be campaigning to let them work here freely.

Posted 09 Jun 2008 in Blog, Immigration, Spain
  1. G.S. says:

    Congratulations. I read Immigrants a year ago and found it to be very well written and informative. I’m glad that more people in Spain will have the chance to read it as well.

  2. John Bull says:

    Actually, it was announced yesterday that the Spanish government will shed thousands of public sector jobs in the coming yera, and the Spanish rate of unemployment (already inhumanly high at above 10%) will rise substantially too.
    The construction industry upon which Spain relied upon for jobb and revenue growth has collapsed.
    Next yeat it is forecast that GDP growth will approximate at around 1% – hardly a ringing endorsement of your odd litle theory that stuffing the maximum number of warm bodies into the smallest space possible (the height of economic illiteracy!!!) somehow ‘engenders’ growth.

  3. John Bull says:

    The most elementary basic mathematetics tells us that the notion that continued immigration is somehow ‘ncessary’ to ‘maintain’ pension funding is entirely fallacious.
    Just what sort of second-rater comes out of the LSE these days – what a waste of public money, your education grant would have been better spent training road-sweepers.
    As Lord Adair Turner recently pointed out (and many, many others have highlighted the simple obvious, logical mathematical truth), such a scheme would resemble the classic pyramid or ‘Ponzi’ scheme (named after that talented Italian fraudster – unlike you he was a fraudster who actually HAD talent) in which each retiring cohort of immigrants must be replaced by a BIGGER cohort of immigrants, until the system faces a natural collapse through mathemateical instability.
    Now, who’s a silly boy then.

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