Non-Spanish workers in Spain began queuing up to get their papers in order in 2005 — 700,000 foreigners then, when growth was fine. The country welcomed them, and no other EU nationality came in higher numbers than Romanians, just behind Ecuadorians.
RK20 radio broadcasts to Romanians in Spain, about the elections — in their own language. Their community is now Spain’s biggest immigrant group: more than 880,000 of them, nearly a quarter concentrated in the region of Madrid. And they have integrated well into Spanish society.
Journalist Felix Damian, nine years in Spain now, with two children, remembers ten years into the past.
Damian said: “There was a lot of work in Spain. There was a big demand for cheap manpower. So people were calling their wives and husbands to come too, and they brought their kids, and they have fit in just fine here.”
The economic crisis has moved the goal posts. Take the Dragan family, who have been in Spain for 13 years, where their son was born: they have had to close up shop, a painting business. New rules since the summer have required Romanians to have an employment contract to work in Spain. This leaves the Dragans in the lurch.
Dalia Dragan: “Neither my husband nor I ever registered with social security or the job office. This affects us both. We’ve both lost our jobs. We’d like to go back to Romania but we’ve been paying for a house here for nine years and our son is in school here, completely settled in, since he was born here. So, for the moment, we’re fighting to stay.”
It is certainly not only non-Spaniards who are under pressure to change countries, like Gerardo Beniger, 30, Spanish, with a degree and two years’ international work experience.
Beniger said: “We went to university, went abroad, learned languages, did thousands of internships and then in the end when we want to set up a life we can’t.”
Fed up scraping around for job interviews in Spain, Gerardo took a decision.
Beniger said: “I’ve had interviews especially in the Netherlands. I’ve got another one on Thursday, and also in Germany.”
His bags are packed.