Thursday, October 28

Thousands of graduated immigrants, doomed to precariousness | Education

Having a college degree isn’t much use if it doesn’t allow you to practice. Making the homologation effective in Spain involves a bureaucratic journey that usually lasts from nine months to two years for European diplomas, but it can extend up to four years or more if it is non-EU. Now, the Ministry of Universities is preparing a decree in which it undertakes to shorten waiting times to less than six months, simplifying procedures. And for the 15,000 people (9,000 of them since 2019) who have already made the request – it must be processed with the current regulations – the ministry will launch a “crash plan”, which consists of digitizing the files and contacting the plaintiffs electronically (banishing certified mail).

In some careers, especially in the health branch, in addition to the homologation of the subjects taken in the country of origin, the Ministry of Universities requires that they pass complementary training requirements in order to practice in Spain. To do this, universities hold two exam sessions a year, one in May and one in November. But the pandemic has altered the internal functioning of the campuses and in careers such as dentistry, these tests have not been called since 2019. “We need the ministry to act as an interlocutor with the universities so that they can reconvene the tests,” claims Víctor Orezzoli, founder of the Homologous Odontologists association in Spain, with more than 200 members. The organization claims to obtain the same facilities available to professionals from other university degrees in health areas such as nursing or physiotherapy who have been able to opt for these tests.

As a result of all this bureaucratic labyrinth, foreigners are led to job insecurity. Many immigrants with invisible training are forced to chain low-skilled jobs to survive. School principals who visit houses to take care of children of other families, dentists who exchange work tools for a cash register or lawyers who leave their offices to deliver food at home. They come from different countries and contexts, but share the illusion of improving their living conditions and achieving labor integration.

Mercedes Trujillo, the early childhood educator who dreams of going back to teaching at school

Mercedes Trujillo’s employment situation has radically changed in recent years. Moved by the close connection she has always felt with children, this 52-year-old woman studied a degree in Early Childhood Education in Venezuela, her native country, where she held various positions in education for three decades. She worked as a teacher during the takeoff of her professional career until she rose to the position of director of a private children’s center that she finally acquired. His work ambition was covered, but shortly after he decided to abandon everything. Trujillo closed the center in 2019 and emigrated with his family to Madrid to give a better educational and professional life to his two children “in the face of the social breakdown” that his country was experiencing. However, things have not gone as expected. He does not have the approved title and cannot do what he had always dreamed of. “I had a business of my own and life resolved in my country … Here I work as a babysitter for a family,” she says.

Trujillo was unaware that the administrative procedure was so complex in Spain. “And much more that it could take so long!” He exclaims. He applied for homologation in February 2020 and has not yet received a response. “I’ve been waiting for a year for them to validate my title and they haven’t even assigned me a file number,” she clarifies indignantly. What he fears most is that the wait will end up affecting his financial situation. Her husband, also Venezuelan, works as a packer for a delivery company with temporary contracts that promise little stability. Trujillo recognizes that the family has gone through several shared flats until they can rent one of their own. “We had a medium-high economic level in our country, here our life has turned upside down until we have been able to regain some solidity,” he says.

While waiting for the bureaucratic mess to be resolved, Trujillo works as a babysitter for a family, the second since she arrived in Madrid. She keeps the illusion of getting a teaching position alive. “I am hopeful that this will be solved soon and I can do my own thing,” he says. Meanwhile, it resists to stop forming. He has just finished a master’s degree in speech therapy, which he has combined with caring for the family he works for. “My goal is to continue preparing myself so as not to feel left out of my profession,” she clarifies.

This passionate about education considers unfair the obstacles that immigrants encounter when landing in Spain. “The arrival of qualified professionals could be more than a problem, a springboard for growth for a society. Not taking advantage of it is losing qualifications ”, he clarifies. She recognizes that despite the difficulties, she is willing to do whatever it takes for her children to live “without having their wings clipped” as in her country, with the freedom and job opportunities that she continues to expect from Spain. He often clings to the day-to-day illusion. “I love to think that I am taking care of children that one day I will be able to educate.”

Marco Pérez, the lawyer who delivers food with Uber eats

Throughout a day, one can witness many legal irregularities. Marco Pérez runs into them often, while touring Madrid on a motorcycle and taking orders from the Uber Eats platform. This 38-year-old Venezuelan observes them with the eyes of a law graduate. Easily spot job abuses your friends tell you about. Apart from that, his studies have served him little since he arrived in Spain three years ago. In Caracas, Pérez had chosen to specialize in the branch of procedural law. He went on to work in a bank and as a legal advisor for a healthcare company. “In recent years I worked for a government institution, but when they discovered that I was not very adept at their ideological line, they fired me,” he says. “Here I have asked for political asylum, but they have denied it to me.”

Marco Pérez, on a Madrid street with the motorcycle on which he distributes food.
Marco Pérez, on a Madrid street with the motorcycle on which he distributes food.


During his stay in Spain, Pérez has gone through several intermittent jobs, ranging from repairman to plumber, but being a deliveryman has been the most stable job. “I live from day to day, so I’m quite worried,” he says during a break between deliveries. Your income varies greatly depending on the month, but your freelance fee is fixed. Many nights, at the end of his day, he climbs on a stage to recite monologues and scratch a few more bills a day. “Being a comedian is a hobby that I have had since I was a child. It is not the best way to earn money, but it helps ”, he says. When he arrived in Spain three years ago, he tried to homologate his degree to continue his training with a postgraduate degree. He has not yet succeeded. He says that it is a process that can take more than five years if the qualifying master’s degree for access to the legal profession is included. It is not difficult to imagine what the reality of Pérez would change if he managed to homologate his title. You could have an expense forecast, stop sharing a flat, or even consider joining a law firm. “It would open up a range of possibilities for me. Ultimately, it would achieve stability. “

Adriana Mejía, a dentist who works as an assistant

The life of Adriana Mejía and Omar Zarate is very different from what they had planned for when they turned 30 years old. The couple met while studying dentistry in Bolivia. As he was Spanish, they decided to move to Spain to be closer to his family. They both knew that the homologation process for the race would be tough, but they have now been four years and feel that they have barely advanced. “It affects you emotionally, psychologically and even physically. The level of frustration is impressive ”, confesses Mejía. The couple began the process in 2017, but did not obtain the opinion until September 2020. In it, the ministry resolved that Mejía had one subject left to achieve approval and Zarate, five.

Adriana Mejía, at her home in Madrid.  Photo: Inma Flores
Adriana Mejía, at her home in Madrid. Photo: Inma Flores

“The worst thing is that the university has told us that it will not issue a new call for another two years due to the coronavirus. We feel trapped ”. His dream is to pursue a master’s degree in surgery, develop as a professional and obtain sufficient stability to start a family. “I am 30 years old, I arrived at 26. I am not getting any younger. When I want to apply for a job they will ask me for an experience that I will not have ”. That is why they both decided to take a course as assistants so that they could at least work in their field. A choice that entails a financial sacrifice. “If we both do it at the same time, it won’t work for us, that’s why I did it first and now it’s Omar’s turn. We have been saving a lot of time ”.

Unable to exercise, during that time they have been jumping from job to job. Mejía has been a waitress, cashier and shop assistant, but she has been working as an assistant in a dental clinic for six months. There she is in charge of sterilizing mirrors, tweezers and other instruments, and then leaving them within the reach of the dentist who treats the patient as they were trained. “I don’t want them to give me anything, just to give me the opportunity to take the exam and be able to start contributing.”

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