There are a lot of Romanians in Spain. A recent survey into Spanish immigration found that something close to 400,000 Romanians live here (and given that the population of Romania is only something like 24 million, that’s a fairly big chunk of the Romanian population). In fact Romanians form the third largest immigrant group in Spain after Ecuadorians and Moroccans. (The fourth biggest group are Brits, who eschew the gritty urban poverty of the typical new immigrant and instead buy bars and houses with swimming pools in small sunny replicas of England, where they can all get together watch Sky on TV and read the News of the World while complaining about the Spanish) [Stats]
The image of Romanians here, though, is terrible. “Romanian” has become almost synonymous with “petty criminal” (and in some cases not so petty). People have told me that whenever anything gets stolen, or when homeless people start cluttering up people’s nice neighbourhoods, it is always “Romanians” who are to blame. (Though it seems that Romanian has become shorthand for all Eastern European immigrants). I have heard this stated to me every time I tell people where I live. It’s not all negativity - the other day I was on the metro and there were two Romanians playing the accordion very proficiently to the apparent delight of most of my fellow passengers who accordingly coughed up a fair amount of loose change. But I have heard a lot of stories – of pickpockets, of organised crime gangs, of house robberies, of public drunkenness, etc etc and so on, every time I’ve mentioned my home. Now, it should be pointed out that I haven’t yet heard anyone actually tell me a story of a personal experience – it’s all that kind of rumour, hearsay and TV news sensationalism. It may be based on an element of truth, but it seems likely to me that it is, at the very least, exaggerated.
Whatever the origins, it does not bode well for the Romanian emigrant experience here, and presumably with EU accession round the corner, there will be even more people looking to come here and work.