Every night an average of 50 immigrants bed down on Palma's hard concrete pavements outside the immigration office in order to be first in the queue in the morning to hopefully have enough time to sort their documentation out so they can start on a new life in the Balearics. Thousands of immigrants are arriving in the Balearics every year and the immigration office in Palma is inundated with applications for work permits and residents certificates. Staff are finding it increasingly hard to keep up with demand. One of the biggest problems for the immigrants is when they arrive, they find a very different panorama to the one they envisaged. They are encountering problems in finding accommodation and to a lesser extent work, because there are sections of society which refuse to accept them and the street, where many are forced to seek temporary shelter, has become a highly competitive environment. Immigrants are having to overcome a host of problems in order to get their paperwork in order, find a home and a job in order to start their new lives. Many start gathering outside the immigration office in Palma shortly after midnight. Most find a spot and try to get some sleep as for many, they know will have to return night after night. It's a sharp turnaround for Spain, once among Europe's poorest countries whose people migrated to its richer neighbours in search of work. But a quarter century of economic growth has changed all that. Since joining the European Union in the late 1980s, this country of 40 million has blossomed into the world's 14th largest economy and sharply narrowed the income gap with its European neighbours. Its economic success and geographical closeness to Africa have made it a prime destination for poor immigrants. The Mayor of Palma has recently suggested that an immigrant holding centre be built in the capital. The Balearics is not the only region of Spain having to absorb thousands of immigrants, with many of the “illegals” working in the cities in construction, domestic work and unfortunately prostitution. This is part of an underground economy that amounts to $110 billion, or one–fifth of Spain's gross domestic product. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's conservative government hoped a newly enacted law would balance Spain's need for cheap labor against pressure from other European Union governments, who fear the country is becoming a continental gateway for illegal immigration. But it has also backfired in Barcelona, where police roundups have sent illegal immigrants scurrying from one city park to another, because the city had no processing center as required under the new legislation.

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