Some migrants in Spain default and decamp

Thu Oct 2, 2008 7:58am EDT
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By Paul Day

MADRID (Reuters) - Rodolfo Jaramillo looks around his Madrid apartment at the stacked stereo system and a picture of parakeets on the wall, and shrugs. It's been three months since he paid a mortgage installment and he plans to return to Ecuador.

Jaramillo, 40, has lived in Spain for nine years. Over the last six months, he has lost his job in construction, his wife is stuck in Quito after her return visa was revoked and his two children, both Spanish citizens, have joined her.

Alone and jobless in Spain, he sees no choice but to leave his debts and go home.

"The bank has offered different mortgage terms, but I don't have the money. The moment I get rid of this flat, if I have to give it up or they take it, I'm going back to Ecuador," he said.

During Spain's boom years, banks energetically courted immigrants: now numbering around 5 million, some like Jaramillo are heading home. Those who stay have dwindling earnings to repatriate as competition for jobs rises and wages slip.

Similar situations are emerging elsewhere in Europe as an immigrant tide turns back from potential recession: there is anecdotal evidence some of the Polish workers who restored many British homes are returning, and Britain's Border Agency has said fewer eastern Europeans sought work in the second quarter.

"Last year, I was working on a housing construction site in Madrid for 1,800 euros a month. No one's building houses anymore and the few jobs left, if you can find them, pay 1,300 euros maximum," said Franklin Vallejas, 42, also from Ecuador.

Spain's economy is forecast to enter recession this year and construction, until recently a major source of employment for immigrants, has stagnated as the housing market imploded.   Continued...

<p>Rodolfo Jaramillo, an immigrant from Ecuador, gestures in his home in Parla, near Madrid, September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Perez</p>