SPAIN TODAY: Lightning Strikes the Costa Thrice; Health Coverage in Sight for Illegal Aliens; Grandma’s Hut Downed


by Rose Maramba


As the summer holidays draw to a close, Spanish tourism figures have started to come in. For the first six months of 2015, the Costa del Sol, premier foreign tourist destination in Southern Spain, registered an overall 5% increase in visits and overnight stays from the same period in 2014: 1,687,459 visitors came to visit Malaga Province, 78,777 more than in the first half of last year.

The happy phenomenon has produced over 8 million stays, 5.5 million of which were in hotels.

EuroMillions website and tickets (Photo: Magnus D via Flickr, CC BY2.0)

But there’s an even brighter side to this. The increase in the number of visitors from seven countries was phenomenal: a 30% from Poland; 15% from Switzerland; 14% from The Netherlands; 11.9% each from Sweden, Italy and Ireland; and 10.9% from Denmark.

The number of  Brits and French, traditionally the most numerous visitors of Costa del Sol, has also increased – 7.6% and 8.8% more respectively.

But that’s only the beginning of the late-summer good news on the Costa. On 22 August, a Saturday, a resident of San Pedro Alcantara (Marbella) won the second prize in the National Lottery, a whopping €120,000. Right the next Tuesday a player in the town of Torremolinos won €489,000 on the Euromillions draw.

What a summer for the luxurious Costa!
Featured image by robbie jim/, CC BY 2.0



“Operation Triton” conducted by EU border security agency Frontex to rescue illegal immigrants seeking refuge in the EU, with voluntary contributions from some EU nations including Spain. (Photo: Irish Defence Forces, CC BY2.0)

The autonomous regions of Valencia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon, Cantabria, the Balearics, all governed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) or a coalition of leftist parties, and even Madrid, ruled by the conservative Partido Popular, are demanding that the central government return the universal health coverage to one and all.

Moreover, they want the repeal of the Royal Decree of 2012 which leaves illegal residents out of the public health system except for minors, pregnant women and those needing emergency treatment.

As summer cools off and slips into the tolerable – even bracing – temperatures of the Fall, the national government has finally backed down and decided to address the issue by adopting a draft on which to base a public health system that will make it possible for illegal aliens around the country to regain access to public health assistance, but only if

  • said aliens lack sufficient economic resources to contract private health insurance and, in fact, have none whatsoever;
  • they are duly registered for at least one unbroken year in the place of their residence.
La Paz Hospital, the Spanish capital's largest hospital

La Paz Hospital, Madrid’s largest hospital, presumably a most welcome sight to the sin papeles who may soon be able to avail themselves of its services and facilities/Ruben Vique, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Those who meet the requisites will be issued an annually renewable “document” (which is quite different from the regular Health ID) that will be valid only in the autonomous regions of their respective residences.

Another aspect of the draft that will be up for discussion is how much of the price of medicine will the illegal residents shoulder. The government suggests 40%, which is the same as what the legally employed Spanish and foreign workers pay.

Actually, on their own initiative, almost all the autonomous regions of Spain have been circumventing  the Royal Decree of 2012, creating humane programs to ease the difficulties of the needy sin papeles (“without papers”).

The draft hopes to implant a law that will apply uniformly to all the autonomous regions.



My sin has been to build a roof that will protect my grandchildren
so that the social workers won’t take them away from me

The good news is that Josefa Hernandez, the 62-year old “Grandma of the Canaries”, has been pardoned by the Council of Ministers. After spending four days in jail she need no longer live out the rest of the six-month court sentence for her refusal to demolish the part of her house which she has illegally constructed in the Betancuria Rural Park on Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands.

The Spanish people enthusiastically welcomed “Grandmas”’s release from prison, well aware – thanks to wide media coverage of her story – that in her charge are two of her children, one of whom is handicapped, and three grandchildren.

The government pardon doesn’t extend over to her humble above, though; Grandma will still have to demolish the illegal construction which is well and good; everybody has to obey the law.

Algarrobico Hotel by Juan Luis Sanchez, CC BY2.0, Flickr

But how about the others? Some 140,000 illegally constructed homes on the littoral, 12,000 beach houses on public lands, as well as hundreds of restaurants, bars (chiringuitos), and hotels on the beach from Galicia through all of the Mediterranean coast to the Canary Islands can apply for “construction amnesty” based on the Ley de Costas (Law of Coasts) designed by the then Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment Miguel Arias de Cañete. Built illegally in the Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Níjarm, Almeria, El Algarrobico is an iconic case in point.








EU Coastguards help people fleeing stark poverty and distress into safety/EU photo: