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VERIFIED: Is it true these Spanish villages are paying people to move there?

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Covid restrictions, the advent of remote working in Spain, a new visa for digital nomads and improving internet connections are all currently contributing to making rural Spain a sought-after destination for people around the world.

As a result, a number of popular news sites and media outlets in the UK and US have published articles listing the Spanish villages that are allegedly now paying people to move there in a bid to solve their depopulation problems. 

As The Local Spain has been covering all the latest developments for remote workers in Spain in 2021, the promises of endless offers of free accommodation, work and in some cases money didn’t seem to add up. 

So we decided to get on the phone to the ayuntamientos (town halls) of each of the villages listed in these international media outlets to find out if it was true.  Some of their answers painted a very different picture from what was being suggested in the local and foreign press. 

Ponga, Asturias

The village of Ponga in Asturias. Photo: Carmenmoran / Wikimedia Commons

Reports from across the world have suggested that the village of Ponga in Asturias (northern Spain) is giving couples or families €3,000 to help them settle in, and a further €3,000 for each baby born in the village.

When The Local Spain spoke to a representative from the town hall however, they stated that “the offer hasn’t been available since 2007 and we can’t understand why it’s making headlines again”.

Unfortunately for Ponga, the scheme didn’t work out as planned as there weren’t enough jobs available for the additional families, so many had to pack up and leave.

Rubia, Galicia

Several articles have recently reported that the municipality of Rubia in the Galician province of Ourense (also northern Spain) will supplement new residents’ income by an extra €100-150 per month.

When The Local Spain called Rubia Town Hall, village authorities said that what was being reported in international media “is simply not true”.

Griegos, Aragón

The village of Griegos in Spain’s Teruel province. Photo: Chantejot /WikiCommons

Another village that is reportedly trying to attract new residents with incentives is Griegos in Aragón’s Teruel province (northeast Spain).

Reports stated that Griegos Town Hall would offer three months rent-free to any families willing to move there.

While this was true at one point, a spokesperson from the village of 150 people told The Local Spain that “we have already found families to fill our quota and are no longer offering this incentive”.

A Xesta, Galicia

The hamlet of A Xesta in Galicia. Photo: Simon Burchell / WikiCommons

Other media reports wrote that another Galician village, this time in the municipality of Pontevedra, was trying to attract new residents by offering them reduced rentals from just €100 per month.

The Local Spain tried to reach out for comment from authorities in the hamlet but received no answer.

It also proved impossible to contact authorities in Olmeda de la Cuesta, in the central Spanish province of Cuenca, with reports saying the village has several plots of land for sale for as little as €200 to try and attract people to come and build houses there.

The village of Olmeda de la Cuesta in Cuenca. Photo: Diego Delso / WikiCommons

Camarena de la Sierra

Camarena Camarena de la Sierra, Aragon. Photo: Marcela Escandell / Flickr

Finally, it was recently reported in the Spanish press that the village of Camarena de la Sierra, also in Aragón (in northeast Spain) is offering new residents job offers and help with accommodation.

When The Local called for clarification, local authorities confirmed “this scheme does indeed exist, but places are limited”.

“There is for example an empty bakery with an attached house that someone could move into,” a spokesperson said.

“Each application would be assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on the skills each person has and what they could bring to the village.”

Conclusion

Offers like the ones listed above quickly go viral and as a result end up outdated after very little time, so it may be best for you to do your own research and contact the actual villages if you are indeed interested in a particular place.

If possible, try to call the village ayuntamiento in question to find out the exact conditions or if the offer is still valid. 

There’s also nothing stopping you from pitching to authorities in any village in rural Spain (not just those promoting themselves) a service you can offer in return for lower rent or a free home. It could be English lessons at the local school or setting up a business in their pueblo (village).

Alternatively, there are several Spanish villages that we can confirm are trying to attract remote workers to live there due to their dwindling populations, but they won’t necessarily pay you to move there. 

FIND OUT MORE: The Spanish villages that want remote workers

A total of 30 towns and villages across Spain have joined the Red Nacional de Pueblos Acogedores or the National Network of Welcoming Villages, meaning that the places listed on their website are regularly updated with the latest information and thus are actively looking for remote workers when you carry out your search. 

Before you think about moving to any of these villages, you should also be aware that life in rural Spain has its challenges.

Villages are often underpopulated and those that remain tend to be older, in some places there are increasingly fewer services such as banks, and speaking Spanish is a must.

Read here to find out more about about the pros and cons of moving to a small village in rural Spain. 

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DiverXo: Spaniard Dabiz Muñoz named best chef in the world | Culture

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Spanish star chef Dabiz Muñoz was awarded the prize for being the best chef in the world at the fifth edition of The Best Chef Awards 2021 on Wednesday. The owner of DiverXo, a restaurant in Madrid with three Michelin stars, accepted his award at a live event in Amsterdam. At a press conference following the award ceremony, Muñoz (previously known as David Muñoz) said that chefs around the world are in a “hard” situation “due to the coronavirus pandemic,” which saw strict restrictions on the hospitality sector.

The Best Chef, a project created in 2015 that is dedicated to celebrating culinary talent, also released a list of its top 100 chefs, which includes 13 Spaniards. Muñoz said these types of awards not only “help restaurants, but also the people of the country” that feature on the top 100 list. “What comes to me, comes to Madrid, which to me is one of the most exciting cities in the world today for gastronomy,” said the DiverXo owner, who added that the recognition will help the Spanish capital “to continue to grow.”

Last March, Muñoz appeared at a culinary conference called “Dialogues in the Kitchen” in San Sebastián, where he talked about the “disruptive” way he had overcome the challenges that emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant owner told the audience that the experience had made him “renew his vows” with DiverXo. But the same could not be said for Muñoz’s restaurant in London, StreetXo, which was forced to permanently close last December, five years after it was opened.

The Swedish chef Björn Frantzen came in second place on the top 100 list, and also won The Best Chef Voted by Chefs Award. Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, from Mugaritz restaurant, came in third place, while Joan Roca, from Catalonia, took home the Science Award. At the ceremony, Roca said his team “is strongly committed to science and sustainability,” and added that such awards “benefit the country more than the chef,” as the prize-winners represent “a structure, products, producers.” He also said that chefs strengthen the tourism industry and the work of local producers.

Italian chef Alfonso Iaccarino won The Best Chef Legend Award; Fatmata Binta, from Sierra Leone, received the rising star award for her work at Fulani Kitchen; Italian chef Franco Pepe won the prize for the best pizza and Vicky Lau, from Tate restaurant in Hong Kong, was awarded the food art award.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Commitments to end direct provision ‘already behind schedule’

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Government commitments to end direct provision are “slipping”, the State’s chief human rights and equality commissioner has warned.

Sinéad Gibney, chief of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), said slippage meant delays and “people continue to languish in this system which deprives them of so much”.

She was addressing the Oireachtas committee on public petitions on progress implementing the Government’s White Paper on ending direct provision. Published in February by Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman, it envisages closing all direct provision accommodation centres by the end of 2024 and replacing them with a new system of accommodation and supports.

Ms Gibney said “relatively simply fixes”, such as ensuring asylum seekers had the right to apply for a driving licence, were “already behind schedule”. The White Paper had promised legislation would be introduced before summer 2021.

“As we appear today the commission is not aware of any specific legislative amendment having been introduced to allow applications for driving licences . . . Being barred from even being able to apply for a driving licence is a massive State-built barrier to securing or seeking employment,” she said.

“The right to seek employment was hard won for asylum seekers in a Supreme Court case by a determined Burmese man . . . That victory is made hollow by such administrative barriers as access to driving licences.”

IHREC, she continued had “concerns” that an independent inspection regime of accommodation centres had not yet begun.

Before the White Paper the State had been in breach of EU directives by not ensuring vulnerability assessments were conducted on every asylum seeker on arrival.

These were now happening but at far too low a rate. “Figures provided to the Oireachtas in April this year show that 258 applicants had entered the vulnerability assessment process with 151 assessments completed and 107 then ongoing. This obviously needs to be significantly scaled up given there had been 886 applications received this year alone,” said Ms Gibney.

Stephen Kirwan of the Law Society’s human rights and equality committee, described “frustrations” among colleagues that clients in the asylum process were often not getting legal advice until “a very late stage”.

One of the “most significant obstacles to the White Paper being realised” was delays in the processing of international protection, or asylum applications, said Ihrec commissioner Colm O’Dwyer SC.

At the end of July there were more than 5,000 people awaiting a “first instance” decision on the applications and the median time to get a decision was 26.9 months, he said.

Ms Gibney called for a “mindset change” in the whole international protection system.

“It’s about moving towards informing our system with a mindset that we are lucky to welcome in many of the aspirant citizens . . . We need to invite them. We need to offer them integration from day one. We need to see and value the contribution they can make to our society and I think when we do that we do start to then see a system that is informed by trauma, that understands the trauma that some of the people have been through [and] that provides wraparound supports tailored to their needs.”

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Q&A: What is the British government doing to help Brits in Italy overcome post-Brexit hurdles?

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On Wednesday the British embassy in Rome organised a town hall-style question and answer session to allow British residents in Italy to raise concerns and put their questions to Minister Wendy Morton and British Ambassador to Italy Jill Morris.

After the session, The Local was granted a brief interview with the minister to discuss some of the major issues for UK nationals in Italy that we’ve been reporting on this past year.

From residency rights to driving licences, here are the minister’s answers to our questions about the post-Brexit rights of British citizens in Italy.

How is the UK government assisting British nationals struggling to access the new carta di soggiorno elettronica?

UK citizens living in Italy have been encouraged by the British government to apply for a carta di soggiorno elettronica, a new biometric card that proves their right to live in Italy under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

While the card is not required by the Italian government, it’s strongly recommended as the simplest way for Brits who have been resident in Italy since before January 1, 2021 to demonstrate their rights of residency and ensure they can continue to access essential services.

Some UK citizens, though, have had trouble accessing the card due to processing delays or the fact that their local police station, or questura, hasn’t yet got set up to issue the document – and have run into problems obtaining work contracts and applying for driving licenses as a result.

Anti-Brexit protesters on September 22, 2017 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The minister said that the British embassy in Rome has been holding regular online meetings to listen to residents’ concerns about the card, and also provides updates via a newsletter.

“Our ambassador has a newsletter that is a way of communicating regularly to British citizens, so they can sign up to this, as well as signing up to the Foreign Office’s ‘Living In…’ guide, to get up to date information on an ongoing basis,” she said.

Ambassador Morris highlighted that the British embassy is collecting reports from British citizens who have experienced problems accessing the card (as well as any other issues) via a contact form on its website.

“We encourage British residents in Italy to report to us when they have any difficulties exercising their rights, whether that’s related to healthcare, whether that’s at the questura to get the carta di soggiorno elettronica, or any other issues people may have,” the ambassador said.

“We log the individual cases; we also look for trends, so when we see there’s a trend of a problem, for example stamping passports at a particular airport, then we target the authorities at that airport to give them information and make sure all the border guards have that information.”

The embassy sends a monthly update to the Italian authorities to alert them to ongoing issues, she added.

You can find the embassy’s contact form here.

The ambassador also noted that the British embassy has worked with Italy’s national association of mayors, Anci, to distribute a booklet to comuni across the country laying out the post-Brexit rights of British citizens.

Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement on reciprocal driving licenses before the grace period expires at the end of this year?

After Britain left the EU at the end of last year, British residents who hadn’t yet got around to converting their UK license to an Italian one were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to use their British license in Italy.

Many hoped that Italy and the UK would later come to an agreement which would allow drivers to continue using their British license beyond that point.

But with less than four months to go before the grace period expires, Brits are now wondering whether to gamble on the two countries reaching an accord by the end of this year – and risk being unable to drive come January 1st – or to undergo the time-consuming and expensive process of retaking their driving test in Italy.

When we raised this issue with Ms. Morton, she said: “We absolutely are continuing to negotiate with the Italian government on the right to exchange a UK license for an Italian one without the need to retake a driving test, and I can assure you it’s our absolute priority to reach an agreement before the end of the grace period which is at the end of this year.”

REAL ALSO: Reader question: Will my UK driving licence still be valid in Italy after 2021?

Photo: Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

What is government doing to help British-Italian families wanting to return to live in the UK?

UK nationals wanting to return to live in Britain with their EU partners have until the end of March 2022 before the bar for being granted a spousal visa will be significantly raised. That deadline is fixed and will not be extended, the minister confirmed on Wednesday.

“If they want to apply, it’s important that they apply before the deadline,” she told The Local.

“Close family members of UK nationals who return from living in the EU by the 29th of March next year can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as long as that relationship existed before exit day,” said the minister.

“It’s also worth remembering that family members of individuals from the EU, from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Lichtenstein, as well as the families of British citizens may also be eligible to apply for a family permit under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will make it easier to travel with a family member to the UK.”

READ ALSO: Brits with EU partners warned over future problems returning to live in UK

Some EU-British couples, however, are already experiencing problems having their right to live together in the UK recognised, with reports coming out that the Home Office has denied some applications on seemingly flimsy or technical grounds.

“The fundamental thing here is that British citizens can return to the UK at any time. And it’s important that we remember that,” the minister said when asked about this issue.

In case you were wondering.

For British-Italian couples in Italy experiencing problem, “the first port of call should be our team here in the embassy; it may be that they then need to be signposted if it’s a Home Office issue,” said the minister.

“The Home Office has made a whole range of advice available online, and can also be contacted by telephone and by email.”

See The Local’s ‘Dealing with Brexit‘ section for the latest news and updates.



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