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Spanish anger at possible border closures in the UK

The British government is studying measures to stop the flow of migrants from countries in crisis from entering the UK. Inhabitants of Iberian countries are opposed to these restrictions, since the situation they face today, foreigners of other countries have been facing for years.


María Marzo


The economic recession suffered by various eurozone countries has caused the British government to start devising measures they hope will prevent the same financial difficulties making their way to British territory. Preventing the entry of immigrants is one possibility that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has raised and reiterated.

David Cameron

The aim of the Conservatives is to protect the economy of their country and, as has been pointed out, is to adopt this or any other decision to do so: “I am willing to do whatever is necessary so that our country remains safe, so that our banking system remains strong and that our economy remains solid”, he said, referring in particular to the countries of Spain and Greece.

Communities from both countries have not wasted any time in putting forward their reactions. British people living in Spain permanently or during the summer have also reacted, fearing that the Spanish government may respond in the same way.

“It would completely ruin life altogether for me.  My children were born here and my life is here in Spain”, said a Briton in a video for the Spanish publication Qué. Many Spanish residents in the British Isles have been surprised by the possible moves and are worried.

Although they have considered that it could be necessary to take measures in the direction of those proposed by Cameron, most believe that exercising control over the borders would not be appropriate. “Nobody decides where they are born and we all should be free to seek better opportunities no matter how far afield they exist. The thing that should be controlled is the government.

If the government controlled welfare benefits in places people would not come specifically to live on them”, recognised Idoia Andonegui Isasa, a native of the Basque country and resident in Glasgow.

According to Andonegui, it is immigrants who are accused of receiving benefits from the state, but many Britons also receive this: “A country has one kind or another depending on what society offers. Taxes and fees are paid by those originally here, but also by those who come from outside of the country”, he says.

Pilar Lopez Cepero, from Seville is also opposed to the possibility of closing the borders, but considers that one option would be to put into place some kind of restriction, such as allowing entry to those who have a contract of employment or a minimum of economic resources.

“It’s about having a little more idea and control over the people who come to live here,” he says.

The fact that the British have the idea that immigrants come to the UK for financial support is something that bothers the Spanish.

This is also the sentiment of Leire Zubizarreta Pascual who is from the Basque Country – someone who emphasizes that improving one’s personal and/or professional situation is the only reason that leads a person to leave one’s country.

Zubizarreta is also of the opinion that controlling the borders, for example, by tracking people in their early days in the country is a good idea: “If just two weeks after arriving, someone is applying for benefits, this says a lot about their intentions.

However, if someone commences to study or work after arriving, it is an entirely different situation.”

“That’s the difference between the two types”, he explains. To secure a job in the United Kingdom is of course not easy.

However, searching for a job is what the vast majority of Spanish people who move to the British Islands are required to do.

This is the case of Sonia Oliva Bueso, who arrived just over half a year ago. Regarding living honestly, she points out, “I have come here and so far, I’m going to stay.

Of course I’m looking for a job that allows me to live honestly. If I had to resort to financial aid however, I would go back home to my own country.”

Laura McNeill from Scotland considers the British government’s idea of ​​closing the borders to be a huge mistake. In her opinion, what should be done is to modify certain regulations such as those in charge of access to financial aid for the unemployed.

“It’s not fair that everyone can collect unemployment benefit in the same way indefinitely: that is to say at present those having worked are able to claim in the same way as those who have never worked”, she says.

Pablo Arias is also of the opinion that the reduction of subsidies is also a good idea and he specifies that the first step to maintain the current country’s financial system should be immigrant’s restriction of entry.

“I do however fully vote yes to immigration but the next step would be to restrict financial aid for those who have not worked a minimum of time and then to progressively start introducing other laws”, he explains, while also complaining about the high taxes people have to pay. “There are other shameless people, both British and foreigners who just live through accepting help in the way of benefits without ever working”.

The case of McNeill from Scotland was the same situation as that of the Spanish coming into the United Kingdom. She moved to Barcelona when Margaret Thatcher was in power and more than three million people were unemployed. In Spain she found a job in industrial work and she was able to settle there. However the current economic situation which the country has found itself facing has forced her to return to the United Kingdom.

McNeill equally highlights the responsibility of her country for what they are going through in the crisis countries of the European Union.  “As if the ‘City of London’ or London’s financial district had clean hands with regards to what is currently happening in other European countries,” she says.

The former president of Spain (1982-1996), the socialist, Felipe Gonzalez has made reference to the lack of responsibility taken by Cameron’s office for the British triggering of the economic crisis to which McNeill refers.

This was brought to attention after a former director of Barclays announced the Bank of England’s involvement in the manipulation of interest rates.

“If we close the border to the rubbish that comes from the ‘City’ we can then see what happens from here on with the manipulation of interest rates in a process which calls for self-regulation.” Gonzalez suggested, directing this at the rest of the other EU countries.

The Greek government have labelled the British prime minister’s statements as outrageous.  Foreign Minister, Dimitris Avramópulos (New Democracy), has indicated that they could create a false impression and further complicate efforts to build confidence to tackle the crisis.

The outraged reaction however was that of the social democratic party PASOK, one of three groups that make up the government, who believe Cameron should fix the tax system of his own country as in their opinion he is responsible for that crisis: “It would be much better if the British Prime Minister announced and informed everyone regarding the manipulation of interest rates and if he was more careful regarding his own country’s tax system.”

Similarly, PASOK has indicated that the United Kingdom’s idea of closing the borders violates basic principles of freedom and European Union legislation, both of which Cameron denies as he assures that this measure could still be adopted in exceptional cases, where there are “extraordinary stresses and strains.”

(Translated by Amanda Flanaghan –

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