In 2019, Spain received 337 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 5.6% more than in 2018. This figure comprises 41.3% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 10.2% labour migrants, 39.3% family members (including accompanying family) and 0.9% humanitarian migrants. Around 45 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 17 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 177 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2019, an increase of 180% compared to 2018. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Colombia, Morocco and Venezuela were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Colombia registered the strongest increase (24 000) and Romania the largest decrease (-2 100) in flows to Spain compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -25%, to reach around 86 000. The majority of applicants came from Venezuela (28 000), Colombia (27 000) and Honduras (5 500). The largest increase since 2019 concerned nationals of Peru (1 200) and the largest decrease nationals of Venezuela (-12 000). Of the 125 000 decisions taken in 2020, 40.9% were positive.

Emigration of Spanish citizens to OECD countries increased by 5% in 2019, to 82 000. Approximately 22% of this group migrated to the United Kingdom, 14% to Germany and 13% to France.

Several measures have been taken in 2020 to promote orderly, regular and safe migration to Spain. Instructions were adopted to relax the application of the sufficient means condition for family reunification authorisations and the family reunification of minors procedure. In addition, and to adapt migration legislation to Brexit, Spanish authorities included in Royal Decree-Law in December 2020 measures to consider the United Kingdom as a third country after the transitional period. British posted workers in Spain can then remain in the country and continue to work. The Agreement on Withdrawal, which provides the legal framework to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, recognises a United Kingdom national as a frontier worker in Spain.

A new Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration was created in 2020, with the first Minister appointed in January 2020. The Ministry’s action plan involves improvements and simplifications in migration management and regulations, notably regarding migrants’ legal access to the labour market. Progress was also made in the digitalisation of migration procedures. In December 2020, Spain improved the recruitment procedure of migrant seasonal workers with new regulations for their contracts in the country of origin and the provision of health protection measures.

Spain continues to deal with irregular migration. The increase of arrivals on the coast of the Canary Islands between 2019 and 2020 (23 322 in 2020) led authorities to increase the assistance capability by creating 7 000 semi-permanent places in up to five camps. The voluntary return programmes operated with difficulties due to flight restrictions (only 436 people have returned during 2020).

Regarding integration and inclusion, SEM Instruction 1/2020 allowed foreign minors from the age of 16 to work. This initiative targeted unaccompanied minors, whose authorisation to reside (provided under the Service of Protection for Minors) did not automatically allow them to work.

From the state of alarm until 30 June young people between the ages of 18 and 21 in a regular situation but without authorisation to work (students, asylum seekers, tutored minors) were authorised to work in the agricultural sector without any migration procedure. Under Instructions 9/2020 of DGM, they were granted two-year residence and work permits (renewable for two further years).

Moreover, the campaign ‘My school, my shelter’ launched in November 2020, in the context of the European project IMMERSE, sheds light on schools’ crucial role in ensuring migrant and refugee children’s integration, and the impact of school closure during the pandemic.

Spain adopted several measures to protect migrants from the COVID-19 pandemic. Residence permit procedures for essential workers (health care professionals and agriculture workers) were sped up; all residence permits have been extended for six months after the lifting of the emergency state in June 2020 and long-term visas for three months. Other relief measures include the possibility for third-country nationals to re-enter the country even with an expired residence permit; the non-withdrawal of residence permits during renewal proceedings for unemployment or business difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic; and more flexible renewals for all residence permits, including for family reunification, temporary residence permits for self-employed, highly qualified professionals and minor students.

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