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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Spaniards group under one roof to ride out crisis
22 February 2011

Jesus Garcia, 46, has locked up his belongings in a warehouse and moved back with his mother so that his teenage son and former wife could take over his low-rent apartment after her salary as a secretary was slashed.

High joblessness and falling wages are forcing Spaniards to regroup under one roof to ride out the tough times, threatening consumer spending that the country's Socialist government had hoped would pull the economy out of stagnation this year.

A self-employed house painter, Garcia's own monthly income has dropped since the crash of Spain's property boom several years ago.

"We're not dying of hunger, but it's time to scale down and focus on the basics," Garcia said.

A Mediterrean tolerance for family is helping Spain survive its stubbornly-high unemployment, which doubles the rest of the euro zone at 20 percent.

But the more people under one roof means fewer sales of everything from appliances to electricity, creating a double-edged sword and threatening to drag out Spain's economic malaise for some time to come.

After the global financial crisis, the government introduced stimulus measures such as money for buying new cars or trading in old household appliances, but that money has now run dry and the 2011 budget does not include any consumer buying incentives.

Garcia, who is learning to bake fresh bread and wants to find a parcel of land to grow vegetables, said he has warned his son that he may not be able to update the mobile phone and digital camera he carries with him everywhere.


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Spain's salad growers are modern-day slaves, say charities
08 February 2011

The exploitation of tens of thousands of migrants used to grow salad vegetables for British supermarkets has been uncovered by a Guardian investigation into the €2bn-a-year (£1.6bn) hothouse industry in southern Spain.

Charities working with illegal workers during this year's harvest claim the abuses meet the UN's official definition of modern-day slavery, with some workers having their pay withheld for complaining. Conditions appear to have deteriorated further as the collapse of the Spanish property boom has driven thousands of migrants from construction to horticulture to look for work.

The Guardian's findings include:

• Migrant workers from Africa living in shacks made of old boxes and plastic sheeting, without sanitation or access to drinking water.

• Wages that are routinely less than half the legal minimum wage.

• Workers without papers being told they will be reported to the police if they complain.

• Allegations of segregation enforced by police harassment when African workers stray outside the hothouse areas into tourist areas.

The situation of migrants working in the tomato, pepper, cucumber and courgette farms of Almeria is so desperate that the Red Cross has been handing out free food to thousands of them. Its local co-ordinator described conditions as "inhuman". Anti-Slavery International said the Guardian's evidence was "deeply disturbing", and raised the "spectre of de facto state sanctioning of slavery in 21st century Europe".

Mohammed's story is typical of thousands of Africans working under the sweltering heat of plastic greenhouses.

He arrived illegally in southern Spain from Morocco in 2004 to work in the hothouses, having paid €1,000 to smugglers to bring him in a fishing boat. He said back then he could earn €30 for an eight-hour day. Now he's lucky to get €20 a day.


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