I’ve got a million links dealing with Spain at the moment, but let’s start with an article from El Pais that seems, to me, to be a load of crap

The article addresses the PP’s (Conservatives) claims of 1 million undocumented/illegal immigrantsin Spain. Of course, since they’re undocumented, this is a tricky number for anyone to support factually. But the author’s estimate that there are only 200,000 or so “sin papeles” seems to me to be equally suspect.

El Pais is a bit more of a left-leaning paper, and perhaps they’re trying to discredit the PP for fear-mongering concerning immigrants, but pulling the same bullshit with a different set of statistics is sad. I’m all for discrediting the PP, but I’d rather check my facts first, or at least admit when facts may not be obtainable.

The writer reaches his number by taking the number of people with residency permits (2.432.705) and subtracting it from the slightly larger number of foreigners who are empadronado or registered with the government (2.769.664) which leaves 336.959. Then he decides that the number must be less than that because some of those people are legal but just renewingtheir permits or who have student or temporary visas. So, meeeeh, around 200,000, he says.

This is ludicrous.

First: it assumes that all immigrants are registered (empadronado), therefore just subtract the legal ones from teh registered ones and what you’ve got left are the illegal ones. There’s no reason to believe that even a fraction of immigrants here illegally are registered. First of all, many people don’t know what the registration is (I didn’t know it existed for the first year I was here – I was one of the many uncounted.) Secondly, even if they do know it exists, in the absence of good information many are reluctant to essentially go to a government office and tell them they’re here illegally and where they live: it’s just counter-intuitive. (Nothing happens to immigrants who register, btw, it’s just done for statistical purposes and to get certian universal benefits)

Secondly, in the course of my internship at CNN at some point I had to make a billion phone calls to embassies and immigrants’ organizations to try to get estimates by nationality of the number of illegal immigrants coming from certain countries. Some groups estimated that there were around 200,000 illegals for one group alone (specifically I’m thinking Ecuadorians – the official number is 400,000 or so and they estimated its really as much as 600,000) There are reasons why those numbers may be somewhat inflated (it may be in a certain group’s interests to present itself as a large part of the population) but even so, if that’s the estimate for just one group how could the number of illegals for all groups actually only be 200,000.

In the last legalization amnesty, in 2005, they legalized over 600,000 people, only part of the then illegal population estimated at one million. That the undocumented population would then have dropped  so dramatically seems unrealistic at best. At least one publication I found, browsing casually, estimated that in 2006, one year after the amnesty, there were 1.3 million illegal immigrants in Spain.

What is this writer smoking?