Spain stops work visas for low-skilled immigrants

MADRID, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Rubbish collectors, waiters and other low-skilled workers will no longer be given working visas to come to Spain as it battles fast-rising unemployment, the government said on Thursday.

Occupations like electricians, bricklayers, bus drivers and gardeners have also fallen off the list of jobs for which non-EU citizens can apply for a visa, the Labour Ministry said.

Spain’s unemployment rate is at an 11-year high of 11.3 percent, the highest rate in the euro zone, and the International Monetary Fund says it could hit 15 percent next year.

More than 10 percent of Spain’s population is now foreign, up from nominal levels a decade ago, thanks to a huge wave of immigration by workers attracted by jobs in construction and services.

Spain’s construction industry is in steep decline, immigration is becoming a hot political issue and the government is now trying to turn off the taps.

Labour Minster Celestino Corbacho said last month the number of visas for migrant workers would be cut to “roughly zero” in 2009. He has also proposed paying unemployed foreigners to return to their home countries and wants drastic restrictions on family reunification visas.

Unions and immigrant groups say the government is trying to blame immigrants for Spain’s economic woes and its efforts will only result in more illegal immigration. (Reporting by Ben Harding, editing by Tim Pearce)