Shokot, 33, left Bangladesh in 2009 and passed through more than 10 countries before arriving in Spain just over three years ago. After that period, the immigration law gives options for immigrants in an irregular situation to get their papers, but, at that point, Shokot encountered the umpteenth obstacle to stabilize: he needed a full-time, one-year work contract , and with a company without debt with the Treasury or Social Security. The man, who like the rest of the protagonists of this report asks that his real name not be published, ended up paying for faking that desired employment agreement. He is not proud of having done it and is afraid to tell it, but he maintains that he had no other choice. “It was impossible to get it,” he says.
Long-term contracts are rare in the Spanish labor market and even more so for immigrants without papers because the demands and paperwork for employers are a hassle. In addition to not having debts, the bosses must prove their solvency and wait months until their future employee receives the approval of the Administration. It is usually a common formula with domestic workers who, although they are invisible to the system, work irregularly for three years until their bosses can hire them. But in general it is easier and more agile to hire someone with everything in order.
Shokot sought that contract with a pristine company for months and was unsuccessful. Fed up, he decided to buy a contract in a restaurant run by Spaniards. It cost him 3,000 euros and a fee of 310 euros a month that compensated the expenses of his false bosses for his contribution. His papers came out last March and, immediately, his situation cleared up: today he does have a permanent contract in another restaurant, he charges 1,100 euros and is looking for a flat to get out of the apartment where he lives with nine other people.
The demands that the law imposes on immigrants are always reflected in a black market from which foreign and Spanish opportunists profit. The business and prices are adapted according to the situation. When there are no appointments to do immigration procedures, they are sold. If there are more difficulties in obtaining a registration, it is sold. And if the job market makes it increasingly difficult to get a stable contract, it is sold. There are no official figures to measure this practice – it is by no means the majority, warns a source from the Administration – but it is an offer that always meets a desperate demand. According to the Ministry of Labor, the simulation of an employment relationship occurs both with Spaniards and foreigners, to obtain benefits improperly or a residence and work authorization. Neither does Labor consider it a “frequent phenomenon” and therefore there are no specific inspections to identify these frauds in the case of foreigners.
“If someone thinks they are going to give them a job offer without paying, they are silly,” complains Niaz, another 25-year-old Bangladeshi. The young man, who has been in Spain for five years without papers, has just sold his mobile phone, his bicycle and his precarious delivery boy’s backpack in an application. You are saving and you need money, not only to survive after the hit of the pandemic, but to buy a contract and regularize. It has been offered to him by a Bangladeshi greengrocer, to whom he will have to pay 6,500 euros if his application is finally approved and 450 euros per month of contributions. Meanwhile, he works what he can, which is not much. His main source of income is another greengrocer that pays him 25 euros a day in black for working from eight in the morning to ten thirty at night. “If I get the papers now, I can have a good job,” he trusts. “The system has to be changed. Who wants to regularize needs many requirements, but, even if we get them, the one-year contract is impossible without papers. Nobody gives it to you, it’s a business. If companies earn 6,000 euros for doing it false, why would they really give it to me? ”He claims.
The requirement of this type of employment contract is one of the assumptions that Minister José Luis Escrivá has considered studying in his plan to change the immigration law to eliminate barriers that prevent legally living and working in Spain. This regulatory change, promised in February 2020, has no deadline.
Paco Solans, spokesman for the Foreigner Lawyers Online platform, explains why he believes that this work contract is an “outdated” requirement: “There is a dysfunction between the immigration law and the labor market in which, after the reform As of 2012, it is practically impossible to obtain a contract of these characteristics first. It is the Administration itself pretending that people break with the system and make a one-year labor contract with a foreigner, when they would not do it with a Spaniard ”. Elahi Mohammad Fazle, president of the Valiente Bangla Association, which presented EL PAÍS with five of his compatriots with very similar cases, also calls for this change in the law. “It is a shame and outrage to buy a contract for 6,000 euros. This requirement should not be mandatory ”, he maintains.
Marketing, in addition to fraud, involves abuse. Migrants end up paying for contracts to companies that they know do not meet the requirements, but when they are denied the papers, the bosses refuse to return the money. In Valencia, a 2018 sentence sentenced a Spaniard to six months in prison for defrauding four foreigners from whom he charged 1,200 euros for each contract in a construction company. In all cases they were denied residence authorization due to social roots because the company lacked any solvency, had no workers, had debts and their contracts had “no real basis”.
It also happened to Lamin, a 38-year-old Gambian, who picks vegetables in the greenhouses of Almería. “It was offered to me in 2017 by a man who said he was a lawyer. It was a contract to pick tomatoes and it cost me 1,500 euros ”, he recalls. They rejected his application and when he asked for an explanation they told him: “You have lost the money. If it doesn’t seem right, call the police ”. Lamin, of course, never called, although he asked the Cepaim organization for help to mediate for him. Still today, four years later, and still in an irregular situation, he asks before ending the video call: “Could you get my money back?”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.