Grundtvig Workshop for Migrants at Farnham Castle Intercultural Training, Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom on the 20-26 February 2011

jueves, 10 de febrero de 2011

Who we are ...

We are a non-profit association founded on May 2004, integrated by returned Spanish emigrants and foreigigrants that is located in Barcelona, Spain.

What we offer ...

Psychological support to accompany returned Spanish emigrants and its descendants in their process of the elaboration of mourning and re-integration in the country, thus preventing pathological processes that might result from the traumatic situation of repeated migration.
Psychological support for immigrants of other countries, special protection for women who are victims of violence.


-Welcome Service
Personal interview to offer information and emotional support.
-Group of Emotional Support, a safe space for them to:
* find the understanding of peers
* exchange experiences and knowledge
* express their feelings related to migration as a vital crisis
* receive and give emotional support
* reinforce their self-esteem
* acquire positive attitudes towards social integration
* learn mechanisms of adaptation (cognitive strategies and creation of social networks)
* re-frame the critical situations they have lived in a positive way
* respect diversity and accept differences
Analysis of the complex reality they face:
* the experience of uprooting
* the adaptation to new forms of thinking and acting
* the conflicts in their personal relationships related to migration
* the resolution of conflicts derived from integration
* the adaptation to the new labour market and the active research of work and accommodation. -

We treat the following psychological aspects:
-personal values
-social abilities
-decision making

- objectives.


The history of Spain is marked by the phenomenon of migration. This migration determined the fragmentation of the country and its people, dividing families, affections, roles, geography, habits and cultural mores.

Since the 19th century Spanish people emigrates. First, they went to America until the middle of the 20th century, where they found wealth and land to cultivate; later, in the 1960s they also emigrated towards the European industrialized countries, where they contributed as a poor qualified workforce for European industry and services.

The government of the country promoted the emigration towards America from 1853 onwards, and at the end of the 19th century there had gone away half million people, number that in that moment represented 20 % of its population.

As a consequence of Civil war another half million people went out of the country. The migratory current restarted in 1940, and for twenty years (until 1960) near 32.000 citizens per year went towards America, reaching 600.000 people.

The integration of Spanish citizens in the host countries was good, they developed many initiatives and their laboriousness was recognized everywhere. They opened stores, provided services and created small industries in the countries where they established themselves.

From 1960 until 1973, the Spanish emigration gives a deep draft, going towards the European countries, especially Germany, France and Switzerland.
According to the last information of the Electoral Census of Spanish Residents living Abroad (CERA) on October 1, 2008, the population of Spanish residents out of the country reaches 1:233.568 people. The 54,37 % of them lives in Latin America: 670.633 Spanish people who are established mostly in six countries: Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Cuba.
A significant information is that an important economic income entered Spain during those years proceeding from the saving of the emigrants, an amount that overcame the exportation of the country.

Spanish emigrants are returning to Spain

Nowadays Spanish emigrants and their descendants are returning to Spain and this fact requires a social re-accommodation since society has to be prepared to re-incorporate their emigrated citizens.

Since 1973, Spanish emigrants began to return to Spain to an average of 70,000 per year. Departures are limited and for temporary jobs (about 1,000 people a year). The Spanish people living in Europe are mainly in France, Germany and Switzerland. Latin American residents are concentrated mainly in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay.
The returning has been constant throughout the decade of the eighties and nineties. In this decade returnees were 306.182. Since 1999 there has been a sharp increase in the return of Latin American residents.

According to the National Institute of Statistics there have been 227.111 returned people between 1991 and 2001. One of the hypotheses that manages the National Institute of Statistics (INE) about the future of the returned emigrants "is the assumption of an annual flow of foreign inputs constant and equal 35.000 people”. The INE was correct in their forecasts. (Source: Ministry of Labour and Immigration, Yearbook, December 2009).

Currently, the returning migrant profile is changing. If the "natural returned" profile used to refer to emigrants who had reached retirement age, now the phenomenon extends to descendants of the first and second generation. They are individuals whose family origins entitle them to ask their Spanish citizenship.

After the inclusion in 2008 of a clause into the Law of Historical Memory, in order to extend citizenship to the grandchildren of the exiled Spanish migrants, an avalanche of applications was predicted, as the government estimated that worldwide there would be 1.5 million potential beneficiaries. However, the measure has not had the expected impact, as the Ministry of Labour and Immigration recognized. Until June 2009, only 26.000 applications had been approved.

This limited number may be due to "restrictions" in the Law, which only recognizes the right to citizenship to those grandchildren or children of the Spanish people who left the country between 1936 and 1955.

Migration is always a turning point in the life of a person as much as it is motivated by the hope of improving his-her life conditions, and the returning experience is even more difficult because at times people live this situation as a personal failure since they leave behind the effort of many years.

They often suffer the discrimination of their own countrymen, and their idealized "mother country" (to which they longed to return) often reveals herself as a stepmother who treats them as strangers because she does not recognize them as her "own children".

Returned migrants have gone through all this in their first migration and in returning they are repeating the experience because sometimes they are treated as second class citizens, with their rights on their documents, but who actually face the same discrimination as foreign immigrants.

Photos: Manuel Ferrol
Painting: "El hijo pródigo" .-


The experience of migration, is a heartbreaking and limit experience. Intra-psychic work is needed to process the valuable things that were lost and the new ones that must be incorporated. There is a feeling of losing oneself in the way to find something new.

This change cuts across all aspects of life and involves a series of tensions and losses that is called "mourning." -

“Mourning” is the time needed for the reorganization of the personality that occurs when something that is meaningful to the subject is lost. -
Seven important losses have to be processed to elaborate mourning:
1. family and friends
2. own language
3. own culture
4. own land
5. previous status
6. the contact with the home group that used to provide identity
7. the fear for physical risks

Reorganization of personality includes:

- reprocessing emotional bonds
- elaboration of mourning for what is lost
- overcoming the loss of the sense of identity
- to face the lack of emotional and social referents
- to endure the lack of recognition and positive reinforcement
- feeling homesickness
- experiencing uprooting
- feelings of helplessness
- fear of poverty

Few changes, among the many to which a human being must adapt himself-herself to throughout his-her life, are so broad and complex as those that occur in migration.

Almost everything that surrounds a person who emigrates changes: from things as basic as food or family and social relationships, the weather, sometimes the language, culture, status. We can say that around a person who migrates few things will be as they were before.

Painting: Botero.-


Three types of migratory mourning can be found:

The simple mourning: the one that occurs in good condition and can be developed and felt without complications.
The complicated mourning: when there are serious difficulties in the elaboration of sorrow.
The extreme mourning: it is so problematic that it is not workable without psychotherapeutic help, since it exceeds the adaptive capacities of the subject. This would be the mourning called Ulysses Syndrome.

Joseba Achotegui (2002) psychiatrist and professor at the University of Barcelona, coined the term "Ulysses Syndrome" to explain the cluster of symptoms that usually appear on the migratory extreme mourning; the Migrant Syndrome with Chronic and Multiple Stress Syndrome or Ulysses is the set of symptoms that make up this syndrome (named after the Greek hero of the Odyssey). -

The Migrant Syndrome with Chronic and Multiple Stress: defining terms, we understand for stress, "a substantial imbalance between perceived environmental demands and response capabilities of the subject." Mourning is a prolonged and intense stress.

The Ulysses Syndrome is present in those migrants who were previously healthy but under the migration stressors develop a range of symptoms such as sadness, nervousness, confusion, insomnia and obsessive concern. -

Migration is usually a crisis situation created by external factors that impel people to seek other destinations. As such it is traumatic and dangerous, because it submits people to many losses and suffering, affecting all aspects of their life.

Adequate preparation before migration is essential to alleviate their traumatic effects, not to mention that a migration is re-signified permanently and in that sense it extends throughout life.

Painting: "Consolation" by Lora Shelley .-


Migrants have to reprocess the emotional bonds established with their country of origin (people, culture, landscapes...), bonds that were formed during the early stages of life and which have played an important role in the structuring of their personality. When leaving their country, migrants must keep those bonds because through them they express their personality and identity as a person and, simultaneously, they must implement new bonds to adapt themselves to the host country.

Difficulties are bigger when migration is done in bad circumstances: psychological problems may occur due to a pathological development of mourning caused by the precarious circumstances of migration.

The less consistent the planning of migration, the more difficult the elaboration of mourning will be.

Some important aspects must be kept in mind to understand this process:

* The feeling of loss that is always present in a migration and the feeling of helplessness that accompanies it. Migrants go through periods of uprooting and attempted adaptation with mixed results, accompanied by the inevitable homesickness for the loved people, things and bonds left behind.

* In addition, to be able to join the new community, migrants have to resign a part of their individuality, as their culture and customs. A major difficulty is that sometimes they do not find "their place" in the new country, facing a lack of recognition from other people and a lack of positive reinforcing. Sometimes all these feelings are accompanied by the fear of poverty.

* The elaboration of the inevitable feelings of ambivalence, idealization and denigration of the things left behind is necessary, as well as for the things they find in the new country.

The experience of migration is a heartbreaking and limit passage. Intra-psychic work needs to be done to process the valuable things that are lost and the new things that must be incorporated.

Migration is an inner tear with a sense of losing oneself in the way to find otherwise. Migration threatens our sense of identity. Changing our place of residence involves entering “uncharted” territory, and new psychological functions must be anticipated. Internal referents must be called upon in order to prevent psychological disorganization.

Many complex psychological phenomena occur during migration and integration into a new community and many difficulties have to be faced.

Some of these difficulties are described below.

a. High level of personal and family stress created by conflicting needs such as:

* Learning what are the procedures of the new community in order to be accepted: adapting to new customs, new codes or social mores, changes in the language, etc.

* Together with the inner desire to keep some of their own customs .

b. Ambivalent behaviour and ambivalent feelings among family members, felt by the migrants who quit the country and by the people who remain in it. Guilt, hope, anger, sadness. Everything is mixed up.

c. Identity problems. Sometimes migrants have the feeling that their mind is in one country and their body in another, or even the feeling that they do not "belong" anywhere. The sense of identity is the subjective feeling of sameness and continuity of the self, which is referred in relation to culture as well. When this culture changes an accumulation of resources is needed in order to achieve the continuation of self-identity.

d. The break-up of the extended family and the experience of losing their roots brings feelings of abandonment, distress and loss of role models.

e. Lack of positive reinforcement. To be able to join the new community migrants resign for a while a part of their individuality, their culture and customs. A major difficulty is not finding "their place" in the new country, facing the lack of recogniction that they usually had in their country of origin.

In the case of migrants who return to their country of origin or who repeat migration, the reprocessing of these feelings is essential because they are re-issued with the new migration.

Migration is not only moving from one geographical location to another, from one country to another, it is also a laborious vicissitude, a traumatic experience which shakes our existence while we travel leaving deep and lasting effects, and its evolution will depend on our available psychological resources. Nevertheless, it provides a great and rich life experience that enhances our soul so it is worthwhile.

Maria Carballal Sanchez
Grundtvig Intercultural Workshop
Farnham Castle, UK
February 2011


-Achotegui, J. (2002) La depresión en los inmigrantes- una perspectiva transcultural. Ed. Mayo. Barcelona.
-Blanco, C. Las migraciones contemporáneas. Madrid Alianza Editorial.

-Boletín del Gabinete de Estudios del Instituto Español de Emigración nº 6, julio 1959.

-Bowlby, J. (1983) La pérdida afectiva

- Paidós, Biblioteca de Psicología Profunda. -BOE del 9/01/02
– Cambios en el Código Civil en materia de nacionalidad en vigor el 9/01/03 para que hijos e hijas de españoles puedan recuperar su nacionalidad sin límite de edad.

-Elías Mateo Avilés. Arguval (1993). La emigración Española a América (Siglos XIX y XX). César Yáñez Gallardo. -Enzensberger, A. (1992) La gran migración, Anagrama, Madrid.

-Fundación Archivo de Indianos.Lieberman M.A. Pernice R., Brook J.- Refugees and Immigrants -Fundación BBVA (2005). El retorno en las migraciones españolas con Europa en el siglo XX: Precisiones conceptuales y anotaciones bibliográficas.

-Health:association of demographic and post-immigration factors. Journal of Social Psychology 1996; 136 (4): 511-519.

-Huberman, L. (1993) Algunas consideraciones sobre los procesos psicosociales de la reciente migración argentina.
-Kardiner, A. (1984) El individuo y su sociedad. La emigración andaluza a América (1850-1936). Madrid.

-Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales. Estadísticas Históricas de España, Volumen 1. Albert Carreras y Xavier Tafunell (Coords.).

-Ritsner M., Ponizovsky A. Psychological Symptoms among an immigrant population: a prevalence study. Comprehensive Psychiatry 1998; 39 (1):21-27.

-Ritsner M., Ponizovsky A, Chemelevsky M. Effects of immigration on the mentally ill- Does it produce psychological distress?. Comprehensive Psychiatry 1996; 37(1): 17-22.

-Sluzky, C Migración y conflicto familiar. Family in process. Vol. 18. -Vilar, J. Papeles de Geografía, 37 (2003), 261-276. Galicia & América. Cinco siglos de historia. María Xosé Rodríguez Galdo (Directora). Xunta de Galicia; Consello Da Cultura Galega, 1992.

-Watzlawich, Paul. /1999) Cambio, Ed. Herder, Barcelona.


-Aguiar, E. Emigrar hoy, Red informativa FLAPAG. Web page.
-Achotegui, J. Los duelos de la migración, una aproximación psicopatológica y psicosocial. Comunicación presentada en el II Congreso sobre inmigración. (Madrid 5/10/2000).

-Berkowiez, L. Migración y Psicoanálisis, Algunas Reflexiones Web (14/11/02) Ley aprobada por el Parlamento de Catalunya de ayudas a los Emigrantes Retornados

-Diario La Verdad Digital (16/02/03) Artículo sobre la inmigración argentina. Web page.-Dirección General de Migración. Anuarios. Web page.

-González, Martha. La madre putativa Gualda, Estrella. Los procesos de integración social de la primera generación Guía de Retornados a Galicia
-Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Web page.

-Las entrañas de la madre patria. Entrevista a Juan Goytisolo, Diario Clarin (10/06/01) Web page.
-Los derechos de los migrantes. Migrants Rights International, 3ª. Impresión, abril 2000. Web page.

-Manifiesto de Fillos de Galicia al Parlamento autonómico en octubre 2001Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. Web page.

-Migración y exilio: Ortiz Da Silva, A. La migración, pérdida y fuerza. Primera aproximación a la realidad de los emigrantes retornados residentes en la provincia de Cádiz. Abolafio, E. & col.. Web page.
-Verdades y medias verdades sobre la migración. Cartillas sobre migración, enero 2003, No. 4. Web page.

-Vilar, Karim - Los hijos de los emigrantes – C@mpus Digital – UGR (Arawolo, 2000), (Fernández, 2000). Web.