Immigration into Spain

Evolution and Socio-educational Challenges

by Jordi Garreta-Bochaca (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 258 Pages


In the last fifty years Spain has experienced major changes regarding population movements and the perception the Spanish have concerning emigration and immigration as well as emigrants and immigrants. In short, in a few years it has gone from emigrating to receiving a significant flow of foreign immigration to again becoming issuers of people to Europe while immigration is still reaching the Spanish borders. All of this has led to growth in Spain’s interest in the study of international migration, its impacts on the origin and destination, designed integration policies and their implementation, as well as international comparisons. The volume presents the evolution of the migration phenomenon, the creation and maintenance of transnational networks, the most relevant factors for exclusion and social integration, the demands and forms of intervention of the social workers who work with persons of foreign origin as well as the institutional response given from social services, the evolution of immigrant students in schools and educational policies on cultural diversity in the Spanish educational system, the development of associations, and other important questions about «Immigration into Spain: Evolution and Socio-educational Challenges».

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Immigration into Spain: Evolution and socio-educational challenges
  • Preface
  • Immigration and territory in early 21st-century Spain: disparities within the unity?
  • Creation and maintenance of trans-national networks as a migratory strategy
  • National identity and immigration in Spain. The management of immigration in a multi-national state
  • Strategies for the social and professional integration of African immigrants in times of crisis
  • The response of Social work and the social services to the phenomenon of immigration in Spain
  • Immigration and compulsory education in Spain. An analysis from Catalonia
  • School and immigrant origin families
  • Associationism among African-origin immigrants in Spain
  • Intercultural mediation in the Spanish context: Theories, experiences and challenges
  • The visibility of emigration in Spain: Intercultural discourses and artistic depictions

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Immigration into Spain: Evolution and socio-educational challenges

Over the last fifty years, Spain has experienced major changes in population movements and the perception the Spanish have concerning emigration and immigration, as well as emigrants and immigrants. In the mid-20th century, when someone referred to migration in Spain everyone automatically thought of Spaniards moving to other European countries or internal population movements from less developed zones to others that were more prosperous. Foreign residents in Spain were mainly related to tourism. In a short span, in the early nineties, we began to witness a major change in the trend. Not only was the Spanish population not moving beyond its national borders but we also witnessed a growing phenomenon that hardly anyone had predicted: the arrival and settlement of economic immigrants. The Spanish economic development attracted foreign labour. A first, this was in mainly from the north of the African continent, but over the years, there has been a diversification in backgrounds as well as the profiles of foreigners. This brought along with it research on immigration that detected and analysed a significant feminisation and diversification of national origins, cultures, languages, religions, and the uneven distribution of foreigners across the Spanish territory. Obviously this has been a considerable challenge for society and institutions, which have had to adapt to this new reality and work, with varying success according to the moment, on the incorporation of the new population. Moreover, the impact of a particularly severe economic crisis over the past five years has brought about new population movements: young Spaniards seeking work who move to other countries in Europe and the start of new migrations of foreigners who had already settled in Spain but have been particularly affected by the lack of work and have thus moved once again.

In short, in a few years the situation has changed from emigrating to receiving a significant flow of foreign immigration to another outflow of people to Europe while immigration is still reaching the Spanish borders. ← 7 | 8 → All of this has led to growth in Spain’s interest in the study of international migration, its impacts on the origin and destination, the design of integration policies and their implementation, as well as international comparisons. Among researchers who have analysed this issue, we can find the Social and Educational Analysis Research Group (GR-ASE; SGR-307 Catalonia research group), which, among other things, has studied migration flows, their impact, and integration policies and the processes followed by people of foreign origin who are residents in Spain (see: <http://www.grase.udl.cat>). The GR-ASE members and the authors of this paper raised the need to carry out an analysis of the events from different points of view, but, highlighting what, in the authors’ opinion, are the most relevant questions, without underestimating others, that must be taken into account (and analysed) in the situation of foreign immigration into Spain in the second decade of the 21st century. So, once we have approached the evolution of foreign immigration and settlement, we will focus on such questions as social and occupational integration, social work with people of foreign origin, the educational situation, the construction of associationism and the roles that this is performing, as well as in questions of identity and culture. As the reader can see, the text was written in most cases using our own studies (of specific realities or collectives), but also with others to be able to present each topic in all its breadth.

The first text, written by the geographer Jordi Domingo, presents the evolution of the phenomenon of migration and serves as a reference for other chapters, introducing the evolution of population movements in Spain, especially in the 20th century, the different spatial distribution of the phenomenon is analysed. Overall, the distribution of the immigrant population in Spain enables us to observe the existence of a duality that is evident in its territory: differentiating the areas that receive international migrants living this experience with low intensity. It is clear that the impacts of immigration are also diverse in terms of the spatial distribution.

The second text, written by the sociologist and social worker Anna Mata, analyses the creation and maintenance of trans-national networks, especially distinguishing four stages in the arrival and settlement of Algerians. Relational resources (from friends, family and acquaintances) that make up their particular network may prove decisive in achieving their migration projects and their settlement on arrival. Since the migration processes analysed in this book are in an early or initial stage, the process of transnationalism has not yet been fully developed if we compare it with ← 8 | 9 → other countries with longer histories of receiving immigrants. Therefore, the link established between the origin and destination is still weak.

The text by Mariona Lladonosa, a graduate in political science and administration, is based on the evolution of migration in Spain and specific legislation, exploring identity issues related to the presence of foreigners. One of her contributions is the fact that there is a gap in Spanish immigration policies in this matter. That is to say, little importance is given to the issue of identity, unlike other countries. However, this is not so in Catalonia (an Autonomous Community on which part of her work focuses).

The following text, written by the sociologist and social worker Ramon Julià, sets out the most relevant factors for exclusion and social integration: obtaining a regular situation that allows them to work in Spain, knowledge of the language/s of communication, the level of education and training for the job market, the role of institutions, entities, non-governmental organisations and associations. According to Julià, due to their precarious occupational position, immigrants believe they must make work the focus of their lives and their situation often entails difficulties concerning social and cultural integration because conditions are rarely optimal for greater participation, connecting with the community, educational improvement or housing.

The text written by anthropologist and social worker Xavier Pelegrí together with Pilar Quejido, a graduate in humanities and a social worker, analyses the demands and forms of intervention of the social workers who work with people of foreign origin as well as the institutional response given from social services. Social workers who are at the forefront receive requests from those who find obstacles to their integration process. In fact, the situation in the immigrant population is not very different from that of part of the indigenous population, and these professionals meet their needs similarly. Among other contributions, the text breaks with a widespread social belief: the authors believe it is false that immigrants receive more benefits from the social services. They claim that they use them less and use them differently.

The chapter written by Josep Miquel Palaudàrias, a pedagogist, and Jordi Feu, a sociologist, introduces us to the evolution of immigrant students in schools and educational policies on cultural diversity in the Spanish educational system. The response to the arrival of students from different backgrounds has been diverse due to the decentralisation that characterises the Spanish education system. Accordingly, three ← 9 | 10 → autonomous communities are analysed, and the effects of the arrival of immigrants on the educational system. The authors, although there are very interesting local initiatives that exist, highlight the setbacks in recent years to the incorporation of policies that fight against segregation and to make schools welcoming.

The next chapter is also focused on schools, but in this case, on the families. The text written by the psycho-pedagogist and teacher Olga Bernad delves into the family-school relationship, and especially in communication that generates uncertainty and insecurity among professionals and families not knowing the language and the reality of school by families and the reality of families by the professional. Although there has been some resistance from teachers and families, in recent years schools have acted to promote relationship building and greater involvement of families of a foreign origin. These initiatives have helped increase the social capital of individuals as a result of their participation in new social networks that are created or expanded.

The text by the sociologist Jordi Garreta shows how foreigners who have come to Spain, especially since the nineties, have organised themselves into associations that are becoming more active and gaining greater recognition as partners for governments. The text presents his own study based on the analysis of a sample of representatives from associations mainly formed of people of African origin located in the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and Navarre. More than just describing these associations, a typology of the existing associations is created, and which shows the heterogeneity among them. This portrait indicates that different organisational models and the associations pose similar objectives to achieve, but in different ways.

The text by the psychopedagogist Núria Llevot approaches a “profession”, intercultural mediation, that has been gradually grown throughout Spain and, although still limited, has emerged from the growing influx of foreign population. The article distinguishes stages and very different models that have a clear impact on the outcome of mediation. In the absence of official qualifications, or a stable system of training and accreditation, improvisation and voluntary work prevails and there is no agreed definition of what intercultural mediation is. This mediation is struggling to establish itself, although its support is valued by professionals and people of foreign origin. ← 10 | 11 →

The last text, written by Carme Molet, with a degree and a PhD in Art History, approaches immigration through art. Asserting the importance of considering the visual arts to address immigration issues (racism, poverty, asymmetrical power relations, situations of injustice…) and from an analysis of international works, she concludes that artists have a relevant role concerning opening spaces for understanding otherness given that they display, challenge and re-signify.

In summary, the following pages use multiple sources to analyse, from an interdisciplinary, methodologically plural perspective, some basic issues for understanding immigration and its impact, and the policies and actions that have been designed and are being implemented in Spain.

In conclusion, we would like thank Dr. Michel Wieviorka for his availability and the interest shown in our work by writing the book’s foreword. We also would like to thank Chris Boswell for his excellent correction and translation of this book into English. We would also like to thank the Generalitat de Catalunya that has helped to finance part of the publication (SGR-307 of the 2014 call) by means of a call for research groups and the same of the University of Lleida with a call to improve the publication and disseminate the work of its research teams. ← 11 | 12 →

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ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (November)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 258 pp.

Biographical notes

Jordi Garreta-Bochaca (Volume editor)

Jordi Garreta-Bochaca holds a degree and doctorate in sociology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and is currently teaching in the University of Lleida (in such subjects as educational sociology, sociology of migrations and social research methods and techniques). He has carried out research on educational sociology and sociology of migrations. He has carried out various research visits to the Centre d’Études Ethniques at the University of Montréal (Canada) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.


Title: Immigration into Spain
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