Evaluating policies related to immigration is complex due to the multitude of aspects they address and to the wide range of tiers of government involved. At a European level, approval has been given to a number of directives intended to establish minimums in aspects such as family reunification, the status of long-term residents and moves within a single company. In addition, a series of basic common principles on the integration of immigrants was approved in 2004. These principles are expected to act as a general framework for the development of national policies. In the first principle, integration is defined as a “dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States” (Council Document 14615/04 of 19 November 2004). It was in this context that the first Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration 2007-2010 was formulated, followed by a second plan for the period 2011-2014, which was hampered by budget cuts. In the final years, efforts to co-ordinate integration policies and to allocate financial resources to them dwindled at a time marked by the economic crisis, the slowing down of new arrivals and the fact that less priority was accorded to the problem by conservative governments.
One interesting instrument for analysing national immigrant integration policies is the MIPEX (Migrant Integration Policy Index), which every four years compares the institutional framework and the measures related to integration in 38 developed countries using a set of indicators organised into eight fundamental areas. Figure shows the results obtained by Spain in the most recent publication, which covers the year 2014 (Huddleston et al., 2015). The index scores vary from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the most positive situation.
At a global level, Spain achieves an average score of 60 points, placing it eleventh out of the 38 countries included in the comparison. The top positions in the ranking are held by Sweden, Portugal and New Zealand, with 70 points or more, and the worst by Cyprus, Latvia and Turkey, with 35 points or fewer. By area, Spain is in a positive position in relation to policies to do with family reunification, obtaining permanent residence and employment mobility. In contrast, its results are less favourable in education, access to nationality and anti-discrimination policies.
It should be noted that the score obtained in this index depends fundamentally on the legal framework in place; it does not reflect the effective implementation of that framework, nor the real outcomes of integration processes. In the labour market area, for example, aspects such as the right of regularised immigrants to access jobs (public, private and self-employed), access to general and targeted employment services offered by the authorities, access to professional and vocational training, the rules on recognising qualifications, employment and social security rights, and the conditions regarding access to housing aid and benefits are evaluated. Scoring high in this area, as in Spain’s case, presupposes that the laws guarantee equal (or almost equal) access to jobs, occupational training and social aid and benefits, but it does not guarantee that the results are equal in practice.
Acquiring a permanent residence permit, family reunification and the ability to acquire nationality are key areas for aligning immigrants’ rights and duties with those of other citizens, and the regulation in place in each country can facilitate or hamper immigrants’ access to full citizenship. The lower score earned by Spain in the third ambit is due to the high degree of discretionality in the process of granting nationality and to the major differences that exist depending on immigrants’ place of origin (the general residence period of ten years is reduced to two for nationals from Latin American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and people of Sephardic origin).
In health and education, value is placed not only on equal legal access but also the existence of specific plans aimed at meeting immigrants’ needs. Spain, like other countries in Europe where immigration is a recent phenomenon, has not fully adapted its education and health systems to the growing social diversity. In the case of education, where the score is a clear ‘fail’, the worst results are obtained in indicators to do with assessing prior learning in compulsory education, support measures to enable immigrants to join professional and vocational training programmes and higher education, language teaching programmes, teacher training to address immigrants’ specific needs, measures to counter segregation at school and measures to incorporate people of foreign origin as education professionals. In health, the main stumbling blocks come from the restrictions to healthcare that affect immigrants without official papers introduced by Royal Decree 16/2012, which remained valid up to 2018, and the lack of cultural mediation programmes in healthcare.
In the area of political participation, Spain obtains an intermediate score: even though the basic political human rights (freedom of association, to belong to political parties, etc.) are adequately protected, electoral rights are very restrictive and insufficient support is given to the existence of consultative organisations and bodies that represent immigrant collectives. Moreover, Spain has not developed effective anti-discrimination policies, which is reflected in its low position in the country ranking (29th out of 38) of this aspect.
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