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Five years recovering foreign population in the province of Tarragona

The province of Tarragona has been recovering a foreign population for five years. As of January 1, 2022, and according to INE sources, there were 138,485 foreigners in Tarragona, that is, 17.68% more than in 2017. This year was the one that reached the bottom of a prolonged decline since 2012, caused by the economic crisis of 2008 that caused many of these foreigners to return to their countries of origin and also stop coming.

When analyzing these data, the professor of Sociology at the URV, Ángel Belzunegui, recalls that “demographic dynamics are slow and time is needed to confirm them. It is the case that the fastest are those of the migratory balance. It’s very easy: when things get bad from an economic point of view, foreigners disappear and when the situation improves, they reappear. This is what has happened now, since 2017.

Since 2012 the effect was the opposite. The foreign population in the province of Tarragona entered a downward spiral, going from 149,587 that year to 117,679 in 2017, a drop of 21.33%. In this sense, Belzunegui details that “with the economic crisis of 2008-2009, the first impact of unemployment, etc… these immigrants palliated it with their own resources (savings, aid, etc), and if they could not do so, they left. There came a time when more people left than entered. Many Latin Americans returned to their countries with savings and set up their own business, because in some of these countries there was a certain economic expansion».

But the situation began to improve little by little and, as of 2017, “once they recovered from the crisis, they began to come back again. It’s that simple,” says the URV sociologist, who adds that “it is a phenomenon, migration, that will never stop. We will feed for life on this immigration. Spain is the second United States in the world compared to Latin Americans. When they leave, the first option is the US, but the second is Spain.

Although it is clear that migratory flows move mainly for economic reasons, one of the doubts is whether over the years the profile of these foreigners who visit us is changing or will change. In this regard, Ángel Belzunegui comments that «it will change little by little. They will be increasingly younger, more Latin American and with higher education, with more education and more training. It will also depend on the forecasts that countries like Argentina or Brazil have for growth. If inflations go down and their economies stabilize, many people will stay. But whether it stops or not, we will continue to receive Latin American immigrants. In the next 20-30 years Spain will become a Hispanic country».

Although this dynamic is different in the case of Catalonia, according to the professor of Sociology at the URV, because «the Generalitat decided in its day to attract non-Spanish-speaking immigrants. He prefers Moroccans, Chinese or Romanians to come, rather than Latin Americans, because a stream of non-Spanish speakers was generated.

Behind each of these numbers are hidden, in many cases, dramatic stories of survival, of human beings who have not had it easy at all upon their arrival in the province of Tarragona. El Diari has verified it in the person of Johnny López Salazar, a 50-year-old Venezuelan nurse who arrived in Reus in December 2020, after a long journey.

humanitarian crisis

Johnny, the son of Spaniards and therefore with dual Spanish and Venezuelan nationality, began to consider the possibility of leaving Venezuela around 2016. Although things were going quite well for him – he worked as a nurse in both private health and in the public one–, he recalls that «with the humanitarian crisis that began to be experienced, everything was broken and social and economic life collapsed».

Then, the situation got worse for him because “the government pressured me to position myself in line with it, but I didn’t want to because I’m apolitical. From then on, they interpreted that I was against them and put political pressure on me, also on my family, with clandestine calls, threats to my sister, that she had to go to the US, etc.”

In 2016, and taking advantage of his dual nationality (Venezuelan and Spanish), Johnny enlisted in the Spanish government’s repatriation program, although in the end he ended up emigrating to Colombia, the country of his wife at the time. It was from this country, and after separating from his wife, from where he arrived in Spain on December 19, 2020, leaving behind his two children with his mother.

«Why to Reus? Well, by chance”, recalls Johnny, who explains that “the first thing I did before coming was to decide where, because I had no family roots in Spain. So, through social networks, I contacted Latinos who recommended me to come to Reus and offered me help.

Thus, with a suitcase and 200 euros in his pocket, this Venezuelan arrived at Barajas airport, where he had to sleep a couple of nights since he could not contact his Reus link. In the end he succeeded and settled in the capital of Baix Camp, where he was welcomed by a woman who was Spanish but with a Venezuelan family. «He gave me lodging for eight days, but later she told me that she had to find me a room and it was a jug of cold water for me. He took me to a church but they couldn’t help me and the anguish began to be great. I asked God to bring me back to my country,” recalls Johnny.

In the end, this nurse got accommodation in a room in a flat. «She asked me for 200 euros, which was all I had, but the woman told me that the following month she had to pay her 600 more. I told her that she couldn’t because she didn’t have a job. I stayed in that flat for 15 days and started working putting up advertising stickers, earning 15 euros a day. The situation was very difficult and I wondered what kind of help is there from the State for a person who has been repatriated? The answer was simple: none.

The role of Social Services

When it was going the worst, Johnny had the enormous luck of contacting the Social Services of the Reus City Council, «where they treated me very well. There I met Alberto, who was my guardian angel. They got me food through the Red Cross and I started eating. With the little money I got from the stickers I was able to move to another floor, also to a room, but it was cheaper and better. The problem then was another: How could I register without social roots, if I live in a room?

In another stroke of luck, Johnny was treated very well at the Reus National Police station, where they told me “that while I was looking at my registration they could give me a DNI for one year. Then the owner of the apartment made me a lease for the room and with that I was able to register and have the DNI, it was in March 2021. Then I got my first job, for 4 months in maintenance at PortAventura. Then I covered a nursing substitution in a residence in Vila-seca for 6 months». Since then, Johnny has not returned to work. «My biggest problem now is work, which can stabilize me financially. I don’t want social aid, I want to earn my money myself, I need to work because I have two children in Colombia. Every day I go out looking for a job and you get desperate because of the situation », he concludes.

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