About a year ago, the Spanish government launched a campaign that was somewhat controversial among immigrant groups: el Plan Retorno (“Return Plan”), a program offering monetary assistance (basically early unemployment benefits and a paid ticket back home) to immigrants who are in Spain and want to go back to their home countries. When I first heard about this I thought to myself, “Why would anyone take a measly amount of money to go back after all they’ve gone through to get there?” What I wasn’t counting on was a real estate bubble — arguably the largest in all of Europe — bursting and leaving the construction industry in ruins. Construction was a prime industry for immigrants to Spain and suddenly tens of thousands were left jobless. The effects are being felt the hardest in Latino immigrant communities, and as a result thousands have already applied for benefits from the Plan Retorno. Argentina’s Clarín reports:
According to the latest data, 5088 foreigners living in Spain have asked to return to their countries with the help of the voluntary return program that started in 2008.
According to the Spanish Labor and Immigration Ministry, they have already processed 4,753 petitions, and 3,977 have been approved. Citizens of Latin American countries are the “primary applicants”, making up 91% of the petitions.
Applicants accepted into the program reportedly receive an average of 9000 euros (about 12,500 dollars).