‘Expats’ resident on Spain’s Costa’s receive chilling warnings
Beleaguered British Expatriates resident along Spain’s Mediterranean Costa’s are digesting a series of thinly veiled threats and warnings recently issued by a variety of sources.
Facing an increasingly bleak future, exasperated by the coldest winter in some forty years and with up to a 30% loss of income for those taking their age related or occupational pensions in Pounds Sterling which is witnessing a virtual collapse against the Euro, times are not good for the tens of thousands of Britons who chose to make Spain their new home in later life.
Living in properties ill equipped to deal with colder temperatures and poorly insulated and most now in negative equity in a failed and overstocked housing market, many are returning home to Britain where they either throw themselves to the mercies of the State or turn to relatives for assistance. Removal companies in Spain and indeed, in France as well, have been inundated with enquiries and contracts to move personal possessions back to the UK.
The housing boom along Spain’s Mediterranean coast during the late 20th and early 21st century has seen the almost unbridled creation of hundreds of massive housing estates, entitled ‘urbanisations’ by the developers but this past 18 months has seen many builders go into liquidation, some so quickly that overseas purchasers have been left high and dry and indeed homeless. Many of those Britons who remain are forced to live in impoverished conditions in these soulless, sprawling complexes, existing at levels officially declared by the Spanish Government as being below the poverty line. Now, inevitably, crime levels are increasing and businesses built on the ability of Expats to spend disposable incomes are increasingly failing. Row after row of bars, cafes and restaurants are boarded up and marked for sale or rent. For the first time ever, estate agencies are closing in record numbers and those that remain are advertising repossessed properties for sale as substantial numbers simply walk away from their dream homes in the sun, unable to afford the Euro denominated mortgages due to the collapse of Sterling.
Expat charities report huge numbers of appeals for assistance, with local Branches of ‘Age Concern’ handing out basic food parcels for Christmas and planning to open ‘soup kitchens’ during 2009. Newly formed branches of ‘The Samaritans’ are reporting increased telephone calls from desperate Britons. The banner headline of the ever popular and widely read 'Costa Blanca News' only this week, boldly announced 'Expats In Need' before detailing the work and increasing demands being made of Costa Expat 'help' associations which all depend on charitable support.
Now, an out of touch Spanish political bureaucracy increasingly derides those it welcomed with open arms in the fairly recent past. Provincial politician, Maria Asuncion Prieto, of the Diputacion de Alicante has branded many of these urbanisations as ‘ghettos, where Spaniards fear to tread’ and Ute Kaiser, a Councillor in one municipality along the Costa Blanca further added fuel to the fire by stating that many Expats are ‘living in ghettos which encourage a high crime rate and do not integrate.’
British Member of Parliament and former Minister for Europe, Denis Macshane recently remarked that ‘Expat Brits could soon find themselves under attack in Spain as the global credit crunch leaves locals out of work’ and ‘I am not sure I would even want to be a Brit in Spain.’
With Spain facing up to 20% unemployment amongst its working age population and the Governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez, writing in Spain’s ‘El Pais’ newspaper forecasting complete economic meltdown, Macshane’s warnings may not be too far from the truth.
Many Britons are now in despair and increasingly angry at their own politicians and Consular representatives, who showing complete insensitivity recently launched a massively funded and well advertised campaign encouraging Britons resident in Spain to ‘shop’ their friends and neighbours if they suspect them of claiming UK based benefits to which they were not entitled and by advising struggling British expats to ‘tighten their belts and think carefully about their futures in Spain.’ Indeed, as though to rub salt in open wounds, this message has been repeated time after time in the local papers and even on the official British Department for Work and Pensions website.
Letters written to the local Expat press reveal deep seated and growing resentment aimed at the British politicians and Consular staff and many brand them the real criminals in this situation and not the minority who unlawfully claim social benefits. Sadly, in a society where Expats enjoy virtually no support alike that offered by UK based Social Services Departments, where there are few caring relatives and where there is no entitlement to State health care for the under 65's, a recent article which appeared in the same papers informing of a malnourished and lonely Briton found dead in his apartment, neglected and unwanted, shows that the true tragedy of the plight of many resident in this part of the Euro zone has yet to be revealed.
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