Why the pause?

I will post a little later today on something (from my perspective) with a little more substance than this one. So to explain the pause… and to tie to the previous post on being a ‘privileged’ immigrant.

This month, so far, we have managed to clock up in excess of 40, and probably nearer to 50 than 40 hours, of either filling in forms, going to a government department for an interview complete with filled in forms. Today was a good day. A few days ago we had a visit to the tax office to seek to get back excess tax paid in 2017. No cannot do that – main reason being Gayle is not a resident in Spain! (Mental note to self – must work out who is the imposter!)

Then tied to seeking to get Gayle registered as a permanent resident (we were already working on that on a parallel track with the national police) we had to get our wedding certificate legally authorised by the British foreign office, then translated in a centre approved by the Spanish government for translation… the police office is 10 miles one direction, the translation office 10 miles the other, drive between, pay translation of 40€ and foreign office £45, all to receive a card. Yesterday left for translation office (2 hours). Today back to the translation office, off to police station… then a big hit as without an appointment Gayle got her piece of card – permanent residence.

All the above kinda explains what we have been up to (we are also in process of changing our driving licenses – that is a 1 hour drive away and involves a three step process). Meanwhile life for those who are immigrants, often not by choice, and without our privileges? They probably would not have the privilege even to reflect back on the various processes and would have long since given up on counting how many hours had gone into their probably unsuccessful attempts to get whatever papers that might make their lives a little easier.

Privileged immigrants

Living with integrity is always a challenge but if our ‘yes’ is to be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ to be ‘no’ we have to at least try to have a go at doing so. Yesterday we both went to the Police Headquarters in the nearby largish town, Gandia, to try and get our residency papers raised to the level of ‘permanent residents’. We left home at 8.30pm, were back home by 1.30pm to prepare one more document and finally home by 4.30pm. What did we achieve? I finally left with a permanent resident status – but we have one more step for Gayle (more below).

Back in the day when we were voting on the referendum for the Brexit a UK citizen, living long term in Spain, asked me which way I would vote. I said for me it was easy. He replied with ‘you can’t do that. It is all about the country first [UK]. And it is clear – there are two different words. They’re immigrants. We’re ex-pats.’ I was blown away by what he said. Since then we have described ourselves as ‘immigrants’. We have never used the term ex-pats, but have deliberately called ourselves immigrants. However…

We are privileged, white, middle class, accepted by others – that is the kind of immigrant we are. We have resources behind us. Any comparison with those who have come from (e.g.) Africa without papers would be hypocritical. The government can process them and give them legal status eventually – provided they have a contract for 35 hours a week. Something most Spanish citizens do not have.

So yesterday. We had with us probably around 30 documents including photocopies. We had to make one exit during the process to find the local Social Seguridad and get details of how to prove I have paid into the system for over 5 years. Then to an internet cafe to print it off, and back to the police station. Eventually (and seemingly reluctantly) I was given my new status and paper. A marriage certificate is needed for Gayle to get hers… but not any marriage certificate. So home we came and had to post it to the British Foreign office to be authorised by them. When it returns we then have to find a Spanish government registered translator (nearest office is 12 miles away) to translate the document we presented yesterday.

All the above costs… all the above demands papers in order… all the above in the context of bureaucracy. Much easier now before any Brexit. And MUCH MUCH easier than if we had recently arrived from the African continent.

Ex-pats? No way. Immigrants? Not sure now.

We have two more legal situations coming up. The most bizarre one is the tax office who want me to prove I live in Spain. Oh yes – the same tax office that takes 20x what the UK government used to ask me for in social security each month, and taxes at a considerably higher rate than I used to pay. The reason why? They have held on to money that was overpaid for over a year… then written to say they cannot pay it back until I prove I live in Spain. Bureaucracy gone mad… but we are white, middle class who know almost nothing about the red tape of government that shuts down one’s rights.

Life as an immigrant?

Living in Spain as an immigrant who has been welcomed in is a huge privilege. Seeking to be a contributing immigrant is of course the challenge. Contributing through paying taxes is the easiest one (though why are the taxes so high?); contributing to the future welfare of the land and people is the deeper challenge – though this is our declared purpose.

I had a conversation way back pre-the vote on the referendum concerning the UK and the EU. A Brit in conversation with me insisted there was only one way to vote, and furthermore he explained to me

It’s all about the country first (the UK), and it’s obvious we are different. There are two different words, mate, they’re immigrants and we are ex-pats.

No we too are immigrants. Or biblically ‘foreigners in the land / aliens’.

Thank God that as immigrants we have the Bible defending us, asking that we be given space in the land.

Dependent on how far back we go of course many of us are descended from immigrants. Many in the West and indeed Jews – did not Abraham come from Ur of the Chaldees, even before they came out of Egypt under Moses?

Yesterday in Barcelona there was a huge and wonderful street protest. Organisers suggested 500,000 and the official sources 160,000 (so probably around 200,000 which roughly translates into 1/10 of the population of the city) gathered and marched under the umbrella of welcoming refugees, giving a sign to Spain and to the world. In 2015 Spain agreed to accept 16,000 refugees – to date 1000 have been allowed in. Barcelona has been pushing for the quota and more to be allowed in saying ‘we are ready to receive them’. For certain countries in Europe there is no need to build a wall – stretches of water like the Mediterranean are the wall built without cost!

Here are two videos from yesterday. The first gives more of the facts and figures, the second some small footage.

 

https://youtu.be/JQqCS8Y5xEM

The issues that we face today are complex. There are no easy solutions, but compassion and welcome has to be at the forefront, seeking to do everything possible to welcome the stranger. Thank you Barcelona, thank you Ada Colau.

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