By Samir Bennis*
By Samir Bennis*
Morocco World News
New York, August 23, 2011
Moroccans continue to be the largest community of non-EU foreigners (coming from outside the European Union) legally established in Spain with 791,118 people as of the end of June, according to figures released Monday by the Spanish Secretariat of State for Immigration.
As of the second quarter of 2011, the number of non-EU foreigners legally residing in Spain totaled 2,667,935 people or 51.86% of all foreigners living in the country, said the Secretary of State in a report carried by the Maghreb Press news agency entitled “Foreign resident in Spain: the main results”.
The Moroccans topped the list with 791,118 people, followed by Ecuadorians (378,762 and Colombians (228,655). The three communities represent 52% of all foreigners legally established in Spain, the source said.
Non-EU foreign communities legally established in Spain and whose numbers had increased by the end of June are those from Paraguay, Pakistan and Bolivia, while the number of Ecuadoreans dropped, said the Secretary of State who provided no details on figures for these communities.
By continent, immigrants from Central and South America make up the largest number with 44.3% of all non-EU foreigners, followed by those from Africa (38.4%) and Asia (12.1%).
Regarding their distribution in the Spanish territory, the report states that Catalonia is the autonomous region that concentrates the largest number of non-EU residents with 760,808 people, followed by the Community of Madrid with 494,601people. These two areas account for 47% of the whole group.
As for the foreign population originating from EU countries and based in Spain, the number until the end of June this year has reached some 2,476,344 people or 48.1% of all foreigners residing in this country.
Foreigners from Romania, the United Kingdom and Italy topped the group.
Unprecedented increase of Moroccans between 1990 and 2011
After the establishment of democracy in Spain and the ensuing economic development, the latter remained a country of transit for Moroccans seeking a better life. For four decades after the independence of Morocco in 1956, most Moroccan immigrants settled primarily in France and to a lesser extent in Belgium, Holland, Germany and Italy. In 1986, there were as little as 6,000 North Africans in Spain of whom 92% were Moroccans
It was not until the end of the 1980s that Spain started witnessing larger waves of Moroccans settling in the country. The number of Moroccans immigrants has increased 40-fold between 1990 and 2011, jumping from 16,000 to 791,118 people. Over 64,000 have obtained Spanish nationality in recent years. Most of them live in Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and Almeria.
Moroccans in Spanish politics
As Moroccan immigrants were becoming more visible in Spanish society, much debate has been raised over the past decade about their degree of integration into Spanish society and their adhesion to Spanish values. At the turn of this century, mostly after the events of 9/11, many Spanish opinion shapers and talking heads started ringing the alarm bells over the increasing numbers of Moroccans who were arriving to Spain, arguing that their cultural and religious differences made them unfit to assimilate Spanish values.
Others did not hesitate to call upon Spanish officials to stop the inflow of Moroccans and open the door for other immigrants perceived as more amenable to Spanish values and mindset. Most of those fearmongers showed their preference for immigrants from Latin America, basing their argument on the fact that their linguistic and religious similarities make them more likely to be integrated into Spanish society.
Immigration has also, more often than not, been at the center of tension between the Spanish and Moroccan governments, especially during the second term of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004). The issue has often been used by some politicians, particularly, right-wing parties who resort to this scarecrow tactic, to stoke fear into the electorate and lure it into voting for them.
With the dire economic crisis Spain has been experiencing for the past two years, including Europe’s highest unemployment rate, and as the electoral campaign for the legislative elections of March 2012 starts heating up, it is likely to see the immigration issue back, with a vengeance, on the agenda of Spanish politics.
*Samir Bennis is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Morocco World News.