Yesterday a Rumanian immigrant set himself on fire in front of the Regional Government in Castellon.
With this extreme act he wanted to call attention to the helpless situation for not only himself but also his family found themselves in following being ripped off by a mafia group in Spain. They came to Spain expecting to find a job ready for them with all the necessary papers, but instead were robbed of their money and passports and have been living rough ever since. The results of his action were severe burns and front pages in Spain’s main newspapers, and harrowing images on the television of his wife and children trying to rip the burning clothes off him.
More and more immigrants find themselves in dire straits, living in conditions where are infact comparable to the conditions and poverty that they tried to escape from when entering Spain.
Last week a building contrator was killed as he tried to mend a lift in a building belonging to a religious order which he and his employees renovating.
When rescue workers arrived at the scene they found a group of Rumanian and Polish illegal immigrants living in precarious conditions in the basement of the building. The men told them they lived there, sleeping on mattresses on the floor by night and working on the building throughout the day. They were paid 20 euros per day which they spent on food and drink at a shop nearby. They had received no wage since they had started work on the building, which was almost finished.
It is the story of poverty and desperation. The recent boom in the construction industry and the rapid growth in the Spanish economy over the last few years has resulted in thousands of immigrants coming to Spain looking for work and better standards of living. Some have been very successful which has in turn attracted more immigrants to come here but many don’t understand what they are coming to.
Rumanians are EU citizens. But they are poor. They don’t have the right to move freely from one country to another within the EU. In Latin America thousands of immigrants look to Spain because of the common language and history. Spanish companies create employment and invest money there but there are still large number of poor who long for a better future. Spain is the 8th richest country in the world.
Many charities who help immigrants know about many other similar stories and are aware of the lack of response from the government. The Spanish newspaper El País announced earlier this week that the Spanish (socialist) government has designed a protocol that those immigrants without documentation can be detained using straight jackets and helmets so that they can’t harm themselves when trying to avoid being deported.
Illegal immigration is a serious problem in Spain. But it is to be hoped that the Government is capable of finding more humane ways of dealing with it with measures that go beyond detention centers and new deportation tactics.