Immigration is responsible for 76% of population growth in the islands

Immigration is responsible for 76% of population growth in the islands

PalmaThe development of mass tourism in the Balearic Islands cannot be understood without the arrival of foreign labor to fill jobs that locals cannot or do not want to fill. Since the 1960s, immigration from other regions of the country began, and the 1990s saw the arrival of immigrants from other countries, from two sides. On the one hand, there are unskilled workers from Africa, Asia and Latin America, but on the other hand, skilled workers and employers from other European countries are also beginning to arrive.

If in 1978 the population of the Balearic Islands was 627,000, in 2018 it reached 1,128,000. This represents an increase of 501,000 people, including 381,570 migrants. In this way, migration is responsible for 76% of the population increase in the Balearic Islands, according to the study Migration dynamics in European Mediterranean islands: impacts, differentiation and management challenges (Coppieters Foundation / Darder Mascaró Foundations). Its authors, David Abril (professor of sociology at UIB and study coordinator), Marta Barros (social worker), and Josep Valero (graduate in geography), not only analyze the case of the Balearic Islands, but also compare it with that of the Balearic Islands. Cyprus and Malta.

“One of the messages of this study is that if you want to touch the immigration key, you should also touch the tourism key, because touching just one key is cheating,” says David Aprile, who points to the three examples the report analyzes “living parallel lives in “The embrace of tourism, real estate pressure and immigration, even though their territories are very different islands from each other” – unlike the Balearic Islands, Cyprus and Malta are two countries with significant decision-making power on matters such as these. Like immigration. “Not wanting to compromise the tourism model and at the same time not wanting people to come is hypocritical. There is a relationship between economic growth and the population growth rate, and with intensive exploitation you need more people to do the work,” April insists.

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Immigration perception

Another common feature among the three regions studied is that immigration is seen as a problem, despite the need for labour, and that human pressure is caused by the arrival of large numbers of tourists. In the Balearic Islands, 54% of the population consider the phenomenon of migration a serious problem and 32% consider it a problem, although it is not serious – that is, 86% of residents of the islands consider migration a serious problem and only 9% believe that the arrival of migrants is not.

In addition, migrants from the Global South are treated in a utilitarian manner and suffer from a lack of integration policies. “There is a process of social division based on the origin of citizens and the migrant population is treated in a utilitarian way,” explains Marta Barros, who believes that “citizens should be involved in defining strategies” and that “spaces should be where you can work on real and unbiased data.” One example is enough to understand this bias: in the Balearic Islands, 2,175 migrants arrived on foot (this data comes from the Spanish government delegation) and 17.8 million tourists in 2023 (according to Epistat), but the discourses of “extreme” right focus on the influx of migrants, With demands such as withdrawing support for NGOs serving them – Fox submitted a non-legal proposal (PNL) in this regard at the beginning of 2024.

Because as expected from record numbers of tourists, forecasts for the number of migrants are also rising: while 9,044 foreign migrants arrived in the Balearic Islands in 2020, in 2035 the number could reach 20,000 (this figure includes those arriving) from European Union countries). Also, unlike Malta and Cyprus, which are two countries, the islands have no jurisdiction over their borders.

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“Here we have more advanced social policies, but there is no policy that recognizes social and cultural diversity,” April says, considering this phenomenon “irreversible.” “We need to work on coexistence,” he says. “There is no policy at the European level that treats people with respect,” Barros points out.

However, the perception is not the same when it comes to immigrants from other European countries, despite the role they play in increasing house prices due to their high purchasing power and the real estate investments they make. Because it must be taken into account that the European islands in the Mediterranean are located between the northern and southern shores of this sea, a point where social differences meet and become evident. To the situation described we must add the rise of the far right and the fact that there are elections for the European Parliament around the corner – from 6 to 9 June – which far-right parties and Eurosceptics will be able to control. This chamber is through a coalition, according to a study conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank.

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