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Spain will pay unemployed migrant workers to leave

The incentive program marks a shift in Spain's lenient immigration policies.

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Just a year ago, the Spanish government was contracting workers in countries like Ecuador and Morocco to fill jobs in its booming economy. Now it has adopted a new measure designed to entice those same immigrants to go home. As Spain suffers from the world economic crisis, it is losing more and more jobs, and the new proposal seeks to offer unemployment compensation to out-of-work migrants who leave.

The plan, which will go into effect in July, offers documented migrants who have lost their jobs two lump sums – one before they leave Spain, the other once they have returned home. Immigrants must hand over their residence visas and work permits and agree not to return to Spain for at least three years. The incentive, Labor Minister Celestino Corbacho, author of the plan, told El País newspaper, is "an opportunity for development and the generation of wealth" in immigrants' home countries.

The incentive program signals a shift in Spain's famously lenient immigration policy. In 2005, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's Socialist government sparked the ire of other European countries when it gave work and residence visas to 800,000 immigrants. Now the government has not only supported the European Union's Return Directive for undocumented workers but has taken a more skeptical approach to legal migrants who fill construction and domestic jobs. The Labor Ministry is studying a plan to restrict family immigration to parents and their children under 18. Currently the law allows grandparents and in-laws to join their families.

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