Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Foreign Immigrants in Depopulated Rural Areas: Local Social Services and the Construction of Welcoming Communities

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Abstract:  Many rural areas in Spain suffer an acute problem of depopulation. In recent years the arrival of foreign immigrant workers has contributed to alleviating the situation. The social services in rural areas play a fundamental role in the reception of these new residents, and in attending to their needs. These immigrants find themselves in a very vulnerable situation. Added to the needs of any family group with very limited resources are the terms of being a foreigner in an environment in which the coethnic support networks are very scarce. The capacity of both rural councils and local social services to promote the social integration of the immigrants is very limited due to the lack of resources, and to the difficulties associated with the provision of social services in depopulated rural areas. Through in-depth interviews, carried out in a mountainous depopulated region in northern Spain, we analyse the discourses of mayors, social workers and members of civil organizations. The conclusions suggest that the construction of welcoming communities requires reinforcing the community dimension of social work in rural areas, and from an ecological perspective that enhances social participation and coordination among the social actors. Specifically directed initiatives are needed by means of cooperation among the different levels of government and between public and private actors.

Keywords:  depopulation; foreigner; immigrant; migration; rural area; social integration; social services; support; Spain



© Rosario Sampedro, Luis Camarero. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.