Emigration was a constant feature in Spain during the 20th century, with emigrants originally going overseas to the Latin-American countries. Later, during the second half of the century, when northern and western European countries began to employ foreign workers, Spanish emigration altered its direction. For many years, the outward flow of migrants balanced the excess of workers, particularly in rural areas. However, the seventies and eighties saw a large drop in emigration, aggravating Spain’s unemployment problems.
But there has been a significant change in the migratory tendencies during the last 20 years or so and Spain, which for years was a traditional country of emigration, has at present become a new pole of attraction of migration flows. The reasons for Spain’s transformation from an emigration country into an immigration one are diverse and caused both by Spain’s domestic situation and socioeconomic and political developments abroad.
The country’s membership in the European Union and its relatively continuous economic growth have made Spain an attractive destination. Immigrants have helped increase the Spanish population by over 4 million; legislation has been modified many times in order to keep pace with this situation. From the beginning, the focus has been on controlling the massive arrival of immigrants and combating illegal migration, which represents a central problem for Spain. Significant changes have taken place in this country, not only at the demographical level, and immigration.