Lumen Report VI: ‘Life without documentation: a road full of obstacles’.

On the occasion of the International Day of Migrants, which we celebrate on December 18th, we publish the sixth section of the LUMEN technical brief reports. This time, the report, entitled ‘Life without documentation: a road full of obstacles’, addresses the issue of the administrative irregularity in which thousands of foreigners in Spain find themselves and the situations of vulnerability and exclusion that they have to live. 

Irregularity (commonly known as “being without papers”) is a mere administrative situation, it does not imply a crime nor does it have a criminal nature. It can affect many different profiles of the migrant population and for many different reasons. Some of them have just arrived in Spain and see the validity of their visa expire, while others may have been living in a situation of prolonged irregularity for several years. In these cases, many people are forced into the informal economy as a way to survive (with the risk of suffering exploitation and abuse in working conditions), situations of financial exclusion (unable to open bank accounts), or living in fear of possible detention and subsequent expulsion. 

In order to have access to the regularization, the law contemplates the figure of social roots. However, one of the requirements is difficult to comply with, since it demands the possession of an employment contract of no less than one year’s duration. This circumstance does not fit the reality of the Spanish labor market, where precariousness and temporality are very high, especially in the sectors where most if this group in employed. In addition, the bureaucratic deadlines for resolving regularization requests are rarely met within the established periods. The Administration is obliged to respond, but does not recognize the rights of the applicants when these deadlines are not met, a circumstance that could be resolved by dedicating adequate resources. 

Situations of administrative irregularity entail a high degree of anguish, desperation and fear for the people who find themselves in it. The cultural and socioeconomic wealth that our neighbors bring is of incalculable value. That is why in SJM we are called to get closer to the reality they suffer and to defend their rights. We must denounce the situations of violence and exclusion they suffer as a result, in many cases of the impact of administrative irregularity, and work so that they can exercise their rights as full citizens and live with dignity