Topic: Foreign immigration in depopulated rural areas in Spain: the precariousness of rural cosmopolitanism in the post-crisis scene
Key words: immigration, social diversity, rural depopulation, rural cosmopolitanism, economic crisis
Most rural areas in Southern Europe have been suffering a long lasting demographic decline. In the first decade of the 21th century, a new trend appeared with the arrival and settlement of labour immigrant population in small towns and villages. Immigrants have become a key point of demographic and social sustainability of many rural communities that have experienced at the same time the loss of their social and cultural traditional homogeneity. Local authorities and other rural stakeholders have had to deal with the governance of this new source of social diversity. The economic and financial crisis started in 2008 has had a profound impact in the labour opportunities of immigrants, has encouraged suspicious and xenophobic attitudes of native population and has removed a lot of economic resources from integration policies. As it has been recently pointed by Michael Woods, a sort of rural cosmopolitanism has emerged in the last decades as foreign born population have settled in rural areas across Europe. Nevertheless, this rural cosmopolitanism is weak and precarious, the economic crisis being one of the factors of this precariousness. Our paper explores this question in the case of rural Castilla y León, an inner and highly depopulated region of Spain. The research was conducted in three different areas of the region where immigrants, local politicians, social workers and other key informants have been interviewed. Immigrants were asked about settlement experiences, challenges they face in accessing employment, housing and local services, estrategies used to cope with barriers they encountered in setting in the area, quality of life, and plans for future moves. Key interviewees were invited to express their views about the needs and expectations of immigrants, how they contribute to the repopulation and survival of the rural areas, and the capacity of local institutions to promote the integration of immigrants in the long-term. The analysis confirms the precariousness of the rural cosmopolitanism in the post-crisis scenario and explores the policies that should be implemented to promote social integration of immigrants and to build welcoming communities in rural areas.
This study forms part of the Project “Recession and immigration in the rural environment of Castile and León” (CSO2015-67525-R, MINECO/FEDER). This is an ongoing research project financed in the State RDI Programme orientated at the Challenges of Society. The project is incorporated into the IsoRural Network of Excellence (CSO2016-61728-REDT).