Immigration

Brought up in Spain, but now forced to make a life in Paraguay

Human rights lawyers denounce deportation of 19-year-old who had lived in Spain since he was five

Immigration lawyers are calling for Spanish authorities to overturn their decision to separate a 19-year-old from his mother and Spanish-born brother and deport him to Paraguay despite him having lived in Spain for most of his life.

The Museum of the National Congress in Asuncion, Paraguay.
The Museum of the National Congress in Asuncion, Paraguay.EFE
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Un gallego perdido en Paraguay

Daniel Martínez Vera was arrested and deported from Spain in November last year because he had been unable to find work since turning 18, according to authorities. His deportation came despite the fact that he had lived continuously in Spain since he was five years old and had no strong family connections in Paraguay.

At the time of his deportation – carried out just days after he was arrested – Spanish authorities said they were following legal procedure, but the case of Martínez has attracted the attention of migrant associations in Spain, concerned by the story of a young man who had lived most of his life in the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, but now found himself 9,000 kilometers away in a country where he knows almost no one.

Martínez was placed in state care when his mother was diagnosed with cancer five years ago

“I miss my mother and my brother a lot and I’m not in a good situation. I am not working and I don’t have any support,” Martínez told EL PAÍS recently from the small village some 35 kilometers from the Paraguayan capital of Asunción.

I need to be where I grew up and not here, where I don’t feel good,” he said from the house where he is living with poor relatives of his father, a man he doesn’t know.

According to Spanish law, Martínez is now barred from returning to Spain within the next years but lawyers with the Paraguayan migrant group in Spain Paraguay Resiste (Paraguay Resists) on April 19 lodged a legal challenge against his deportation, noting that legislation in Spain allows for residency to be granted to foreigners who have been in Spain for a minimum of three years and who have a work contract of at least one year in duration.

“I want to come back. I have a job offer. I’m sure I’ll be able to keep working,” said Martínez referring to a job offer with a Peruvian music firm in Barcelona. José Luis Zagazeta, the administrator of a digital music distributor, has offered the 19-year-old a job “so that he can return and legalize his situation.”

I need to be where I grew up and not here, where I don’t feel good Daniel Martínez Vera

Martínez arrived in Spain with his mother when he was five years old. His mother, who came to Spain to work as a cleaner and who was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, only recently obtained Spanish residency.

“I need to go back to be with [my mother] and help my brother, who deserves to enjoy his childhood,” said Martínez of his younger sibling, who was born in Spain.

When his mother fell ill five years ago, she was forced to place Martínez in state care where he stayed until he was 18. The regional authorities in Galicia have said they did not have the power to apply for Spanish nationality on his behalf.

Martínez says he and his mother exchange messages, but it is not enough. “She’s in a bad way; she isn’t working and she doesn’t know what to do. She tells me she is fine but I don’t know if that is the whole truth,” he explains.

Meanwhile, the young man’s lawyers argue that Martínez has family roots in Spain but not in Paraguay. “He doesn’t have any sort of relationship with his father because his father stopped having anything to do with him many years ago,” his lawyers said.

Martínez has not had any contact with his father for many years 

“[Martínez] finds himself in a situation of complete social exclusion because his closest relatives, like his mother and his brother, live in Spain. His family, academic and cultural links are all in Spain where he wants to return to be with his family again,” lawyers told the court in Galicia.

The NGO Galician Immigration Forum and the parliamentary opposition in Galicia have called on the authorities to intercede with Madrid to “scrap current immigration legislation” and “call off deportation campaigns,” which they say are racist and contravene human rights.

English version by George Mills.

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