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Saturday, August 13, 2022

The government launches a shock plan to speed up immigrant procedures

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Queue in front of the immigration office of Barcelona, ​​​​July 2020.Albert Garcia

The Ministry of Territorial Policy has launched a shock plan to improve the vigilance of immigration authorities, who are responsible for processing the permits that foreigners depend on to stay and work legally in Spain. Ministry sources confirm that around 300 new temporary civil servants will be hired over the next nine months, almost a third more than the current total workforce. The reinforcement aims to solve the almost 200,000 pending files and to reduce processing times, which are obsolete practically in the entire territory. The measure took shape in March, although it now coincides with the recently passed reform of the Immigration Law Regulations, which is expected to bring thousands of new applications by making some rules more flexible. The costs amount to 5.2 million euros.

There are more than two million non-EU foreigners in Spain who are subject to a permit system to live and work and rely on the efficiency of immigration officials to keep their papers in order. In 2021 alone, these offices received more than 860,000 applications from immigrants who depend on administrative efficiency to obtain their residence, work, study or family reunification permits. There has never been such a heavy workload, with the exception of the 2005 regularization process, which received 700,000 applications in just a few months. The increase has been constant in recent years and, in addition to the growth of the foreign population, is due to various reasons: from the possibility of submitting applications electronically, to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, which required additional paperwork, the war in Ukraine and document management of his refugees. “The proper functioning of immigration authorities has an impact not only on immigrants, but on society as a whole. The efficiency of the administration derives from the contribution to social security contributions, the competitiveness of companies looking for labor or the economic impact of foreign students in Spain,” affirm ministerial sources.

However, the surge in inquiries has not paralleled the increase in troops, and overwork has caused months of delays in processing files, causing the administration to fail to comply with its own regulations. A ministry report in late 2021 found that the main delays were in residence and work permits due to roots, which represent precisely the majority. The law provides a maximum of 90 days to resolve them, but it took an average of 108 days. Barcelona held the record with 152 days. The lack of citations was also a problem, fueling a juicy black market until the pandemic encouraged digitization of most files.

The plan has immediate application and will be executed over the next nine months. The aim is for the new officers, spread across the offices with the heaviest workloads (led by Barcelona and Madrid), to cope with the enormous volume of files to be dealt with, although it is expected that their capacity will be limited in the first few weeks becomes . A productivity bonus is applied in some offices to encourage the handling of files. The plan is now to hire for “excessive or accumulation of tasks”, for a limited time, but the aim is that by the end of the year the almost half a thousand vacancies can be filled with new hires, until the next opponents can be expected, a process , which can legally last up to three years. “The need for resources could not wait for the onboarding of new officials,” ministerial sources explain.

According to the ministry, 29% of the posts in the immigration services are vacant. It’s not the most attractive job in administration. Neither by salary, nor by destination, nor by workload. The government delegations, in which the immigration authorities are integrated, have increased from 7,879 soldiers in 2010 to 6,001 in 2021.

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Reinforcements in Catalonia

Catalonia’s offices will see the largest reinforcement, with 61 interim members. It’s not causal, they received almost 200,000 petitions in 2021 and the immigration office of Barcelona has been driving foreigners and lawyers crazy for years with missing appointments and exorbitant deadlines. The Barcelona office, which is the second after Madrid to handle the most files, will receive 46 employees. After the Catalan capital, Girona will have nine employees, followed by Tarragona (4) and Lleida (2). “These figures are given in response to calculations based on the needs of each office,” explain sources of the government delegation of Catalonia. The ministry did not detail the distribution of officials in the rest of the territory’s offices.

The failure of immigration authorities was a recurring theme in the Ombudsman’s annual reports. Since 2012, the institution has pointed out the delays and lack of “human and material resources” that impede “the effective management” of the procedures. The defender’s thesis is the “lack” of a migration policy that looks at the phenomenon in its entirety, from borders to the basic procedures for their integration into society.

The next nine months will be crucial not only to assess the effectiveness of the shock plan, but also to see what impact the immigration reform, which goes into effect on August 16, will have on the offices. Thousands of applications are forecast to come in as this opens up new avenues of regularization and removes requirements that have previously prevented foreigners from submitting their applications. However, the burden of reform will not fall solely on the offices. The Ministry of Migration, which pushed the reform, envisaged this increase and envisaged the establishment of a dedicated processing unit, which has yet to be staffed and which must determine which files it will process.

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Source elpais.com

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