The phenomenon of migratory flows is not a recent development, nor an invention of modern society. Throughout the history of mankind, migrations have systematically manifested themselves in various degrees and degrees. In perpetuity. They are an integral element of the processes of development and advancement. They have persisted indefinitely and show no signs of ceasing today.

However, it is accurate to state that migration patterns in Spain have experienced a remarkable increase in recent decades, with the exception of the most severe years of the economic recession (2008-2014), during which a significant number of individuals who had previously arrived opted to depart from a nation grappling with a difficult economic climate. The aforementioned events have instigated various transformations or exerted pressures for transformation in the legislative, ethical and social arenas.

Let us examine these points in more depth.

Change in the last decades of the 20th century

Spanish society has undergone very powerful transformation processes in the second half of the 20th century, and migratory flows have had a lot to do with this. In this case, instead of being caused by emigration to other countries, a historical dynamic in Spain, they have had to do with the arrival of foreign citizens.

These flows have profoundly transformed the profile of Spanish society. It is not only the weight acquired by the population of foreign origin in Spain, which after reaching its peak in 2011 with 5.7 million people (in 2021, 5.4 million), but also the changes it has operated in the cultural roots of Spain.

Illustration 1: Collectives of "foreigners" by nationality and country of birth. Source: EPA (INE). Fourth quarter of 2021.

The country already presents a level of multiculturalism comparable to that of the main receiving countries in the developed world, with a much greater receiving tradition. This only enriches the country and does so, moreover, with a much lower presence of xenophobic or racist behavior or policies if we compare Spain with other countries in its area of influence.

In Italy, without going any further, there has been the victory in the general elections of a post-fascist party such as Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni. And in Sweden, in the September 11 elections, there was an unprecedented resurgence of the far right, which is likely to win power. Other countries, such as Poland and Hungary, have adopted openly racist policies. And in this context, Spain appears to be an island of resistance to the assault of intolerance on governments across the European continent.

This does not mean that there are no migratory controversies in Spain as well. In this year 2022, perhaps none has had the repercussion that the Melilla fence jumps had, where the excessive force used by the National Police, the torture and murders to which many people were subjected by the Moroccan police were denounced, as well as the continuous blackmail with which Morocco subjects Spain with its border policy.

And finally, it is also worth mentioning the large flow of refugees and immigrants arriving from Ukraine, due to the invasion of this country by Russia. In April 2022 there was already talk of some 140,000 Ukrainian refugees in Spain.

Absence of legislative changes

In any case, despite this increase in migratory flows, the number of initiatives taken at the legislative level has not been disproportionate. Quite the contrary. In this regard, it is worth highlighting the approval of Law 12/2009, of October 30, regulating the right to asylum and subsidiary protection, as well as various partial reforms of Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, on the Rights and Freedoms of Foreigners in Spain and their Social Integration, and its implementing regulations. Also Law 14/2013, on Support for Entrepreneurs and their Internationalization, as well as the recent Royal Decree that has reformed the regulations of the Organic Law on Foreigners.

Finally, another legislative act with some impact on migration and foreigner policies has been the recent Law on Grandchildren, which started its path towards approval in the summer of 2022 by the coalition government. Although this "Law of Democratic Memory", as is its official name, is not explicitly a law focused on the regularization of migratory flows, it does have some effect on the descendants of Spaniards who can apply for the nationality of their ancestors. In this sense, this new law broadens the spectrum of people who can apply for nationality to the grandsons and granddaughters of Spaniards, in those cases in which the grandparents or parents have lost their nationality due to exile for ideological, religious or sexual orientation reasons, and even reaches great-grandchildren.

Otherwise, the last Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration 2011-2014 expired without a new general strategy in this area having seen the light of day so far. And precisely in these years of economic and labor crisis, the vulnerability of households formed by people of foreign origin has become evident.

Therefore, it seems that the time has come to comprehensively address the reality of the new migration scenario in Spain, from the point of view of its effects and its contribution in different areas. A broader prism that covers from the origin of the immigrants who settle in Spain to the triggers of the migratory processes themselves, among which the importance of family regrouping has increased.

[GRAPH] Year-on-year population growth in Spain - INE

It must be taken into account that thousands of children and young people born or socialized very early —the so-called second generation— already live in the country, as well as more than a million new Spaniards as a consequence of the intensification of the naturalization processes. And not only that, but the passage of the pandemic seems to mark an increase in the trend of immigrants heading to our country.

A new way of looking at it

All of the above makes it necessary to adopt a new approach when assessing the effects and opportunities of migratory flows, since not all people of foreign origin in our country have directly lived the migratory experience, nor do they fit neatly into the category of "immigrants". In fact, it is difficult to find a single term that defines the people involved in migratory flows. There are many definitions of immigration in Spain.

Perhaps, beyond the word "immigrant", a broader sociological concept, we should also start talking about the legal category of "foreigner". This term, on the one hand, appeals only to the nationality of the subjects and, on the other hand, refers to the "foreigner" legislation, mostly associated in Spain to the General Regime applicable to non-EU citizens.

"Immigrants" would be all those persons whose biography includes a migratory background that has a decisive influence on their life trajectory, regardless of whether they have experienced first-hand the move from one country to another. Or, as is the case with children born or who arrived at a young age in the country of destination, they may not have done so, but grow up in a bicultural context marked by the journey undertaken by their parents or even their grandparents.

In this sense, the acquisition of Spanish nationality or that of another European Union country does not necessarily erase this background in terms of its consequences in people's lives. In the same way that its impact on the more than two million residents in Spain, of Spanish nationality, born abroad, cannot be ignored.

For example, if I acquire Spanish nationality by residence, do I lose my nationality of origin?

Thus, in summary, Spain's challenge for the future is twofold in terms of immigration: on the one hand, to integrate immigrants; on the other, to create new legislation for all those foreigners who wish to stop being foreigners.

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