Abu Dhabi: It is not yet dark in Lavapies, a business district in Central Madrid, Spain. The time is 6pm and few people can be seen around walking and sitting in the restaurants lined up along the street. The place looks like any other street in Madrid except that it is dominated by immigrants from North Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Dozens of Indian and Moroccan restaurants line the street. With workers from different places in India and North Africa the restaurants have different regional delicacies.
As many as 20,000 migrants live in the neighbourhood of Lavapies, senior tourist guide Alicia Bureba told Gulf News in Madrid.
As the debate rages over the European Union’s immigration policy, she said Europe should welcome more migrant workers.
“It is the responsibility of Europe to protect these people. They mostly come from former colonies of European countries,” she said.
“These immigrants can be employed in agriculture and other industries. They are honest and hardworking. Europe should help these people.”
She said half of the Spanish population is in favour of allowing migrants into the country while others want this trend to stop because of religious reasons as they don’t want Muslims from North Africa to enter the country.
A number of immigrants have settled at Lavapies and call it their second home.
Nasim Syed Masud Ur Rahman, a 40-year-old Bangladeshi, came to Spain fifteen years ago. Now he runs a kebab joint.
He is happy that he is settled in Europe and could establish his own business.
“For us Europe is better. There is respect for human rights. I can get passport, bring my wife, parents and children to live with me. This is why many people want to come to Europe,” said Rahman standing outside his restaurant.
He said he couldn’t have got these facilities if he had gone to other countries like Gulf nations in the Middle East.
Lasmi Hebari is another immigrant from Morocco. He works as a cook in one of the many Moroccan restaurants on the street.
He came here ten years ago along with his parents and is doing well.
He feels that better life in Europe is pulling a lot of immigrants to throng to Europe.
“Life is wonderful here. You can live with your family and set up your own business. A lot of people like to come to Europe and settle down with family.”
“There is no work in Morocco. Life is difficult. I am lucky to be here.”
Martin Gomez, a chef from India said that he had to work hard to come to Spain. He said that he worked in Dubai, Bahrain and Kosovo before coming to Spain.
“It is a big dream for many people to come to Europe but they should come through a proper channel by approaching consulates and applying for a visa. Trafficking of people through mafias should be stopped.”
Last month, more than 700 people died after drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as they made desperate attempts to reach the shores of Europe to find a better life.
European governments blamed the well networked mafia gangs for the deaths.
According to Spanish interior ministry, the number of people detained while attempting to enter the country illegally in 2014 was 12,549, a large increase on the 2013 figure of 7,472, UK based The Telegraph reported.