Almost one million immigrants have lost their jobs in Spain since the crisis began. Of these, 200,000 have decided to return to their countries of origin; a trip that often proves to be as traumatic as their trip to Spain. In this first issue, we will hear the stories of some young people who, like thousands of Spaniards, have had to move to find a better future.

When the building sector was the basis of the economic boom and was able to absorb much of the foreign labour, over five million people came to the country between 1998 and 2008. Most were under 35 years of age and came with the promise of contracts or to try their luck, often encouraged by family members and friends whose economic progress was measured in juicy remittances sent back to their places of origin.

However, after eight years of recession in which the building sector has been severely affected, immigrants have felt the effects of the crisis more acutely. This has resulted in the loss of almost one million jobs performed by foreigners and in 200,000 fewer immigrants in our country. Although the figures are not definite when it comes to establishing the number of young immigrants that have left the country, a fact the experts blame on foreigners not notifying the municipal registers and because second generation Spaniards and those who have obtained Spanish nationality have been included among the exodus of young Spanish people in the last five years, the truth is that thousands of young people have returned by themselves or with their families to their countries of origin or are moving to other Eurozone regions.

On their way out

When he was 18 years old and with only one friend in Madrid, John Jairo Garcés embarked on a one-way journey to Spain in 2002. He began working as a construction labourer in different parts of the country before arriving in Bilbao where he worked in the discotheque, Garden, until it went out of business in 2012. That year, burdened with debt because of a high-end car that he crashed without insurance, with very limited savings, a smattering of English and a knot in his stomach, he bought a ticket to Oslo (Norway), where he knew someone and where he now lives working in restaurants by the hour. The same is the case of thousands of young foreigners who have “low qualifications and precarious jobs, with longer working hours and lower wages, and that find it difficult to change jobs, such as looking after people, catering or cleaning”, says Gorka Moreno, director of Ikuspegi, the Basque Immigration Observatory.

As if part of a script, Liliana Patiño‘s migration experience followed in the steps of thousands of other young immigrants. She came to the Basque Country in 2006 when she was 30 years old and started working in hotels and restaurants until 2012 when she decided to open a costume jewellery store with the money she had saved working as a waitress. Behind the counter of Wappa, a small business in the heart of Algorta, Liliana sold, manufactured and repaired necklaces, bracelets, earrings, headdresses and brooches, until she finally had to close the business burdened by taxes, utility costs and rent. On 25th December, 2012, just a few months after opening her shop, she packed her cases again and went back to Medellín (Colombia) where she has opened a natural cosmetics business with her brother. However, she is still “re-adapting” because Colombia has changed a lot since she left, “the streets are unsafe and the food and rent are much more expensive now”.

John Bolduan“I do everything. I am a teacher, interpreter, translator, sound technician…”, says John Bolduan, a long list that must also include guitarist, singer and self-employed who is earning a living thousands of kilometres from his home town of St. Louis (Missouri). John arrived in Bilbao in 2007, when he was 23, with two diplomas: Audio Production, and Spanish Philology. In these seven years he has never had a contract but he has never been without work. “I pay 261 euros for social security, plus the rent, food and a tax consultancy agency. It doesn’t matter whether I get paid or not,” he says somewhat tired of all the paperwork and processes he has had to go through at the Treasury, the Foreigners’ Office and the Employment Office, but excited about a new album he will be publishing soon. His has been a path full of difficulties, an endless search for a place to exercise his profession in the Basque Country. Until now, because in autumn he will be going back to the United States for good.