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Spain To Pay Jobless Immigrants To Get Out

A giant Spanish flag is raised in the Plaza de Colon in Madrid, Monday Dec. 6, 2004 as Spain celebrates the 26th anniversary of its Constitution.
AP
Spain will pay jobless immigrants to go home under a decree approved Friday, more dramatic evidence of how a once-booming economy has quickly gone bust.

Labor Minister Celestino Corbacho said the Cabinet had fast-tracked the measure to take effect in about a month. Its approval by Parliament is expected.

The plan targets tens of thousands of non-EU citizens who have been laid off in Spain and are entitled to various unemployment benefits, based on length of employment. The plan, however, offers them 40 percent of their full entitlement once they renounce their work and residency permits, and the remaining 60 percent once they get home.

The program is strictly voluntary, and applies to people from 19 non-EU countries with which Spain has signed bilateral agreements to pay people's social security benefits that are accrued one another's country.

People who sign up for it must agree not to come back to Spain for three years, but can come back after that and recover their work and residency permits.

The government has been grappling with growing unemployment in an economy now flirting with recession after more than a decade of solid growth. Spanish unemployment is now an EU-high of 10.7 percent, according to the bloc's statistical agency Eurostat.

The meltdown stems mainly from a collapse in the construction industry, which apart from being the main engine of growth has also been a key employment source for low-skill workers from Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

These immigrants are being hit by building companies' layoffs, and are the ones the government now wants to pay to go home until things get better in Spain.

"We are trying to facilitate the return of those workers who, having contributed to the growth of this country, decide to go back to their own," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a news conference. She gave no further details.

In July, the government said it believed some 10,000 jobless non-EU citizens - out of a total of 165,000 recorded as of that month - would go along with the plan.