MADRID, Spain (AP) — Some 300 people blocked a ring road in the Spanish capital yesterday to protest spending cuts that will leave large numbers of illegal immigrants without access to free health care.
Many undocumented immigrants who do not contribute taxes to social security are, as of yesterday, to lose the national health cards that had entitled them to free treatment.
The decision contradicts a pillar of Spain's welfare state — free health care for anyone in need — and it comes as the country struggles with 25 per cent unemployment and massive financial problems.
The government expects to save ¤ ¤1.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) a year with the measure. It puts the number of people affected at 150,000, although media reports say the real figure could reach 900,000.
Protests over the measure have taken place in towns and cities across Spain in recent days.
Christoph Napene of Senegal was among those blocking the road in Madrid. The 46-year-old said he's been unable to find a job in Spain and is thus unable to apply for legal residency.
"I've had strong stomach pains for over a week and have an appointment with a doctor on Monday (tomorrow)," said Napene, whose work skills include teaching French. "We'll see what happens."
The measure allows for some exceptions: care during pregnancy, childbirth and post-birth emergency, and serious illness or accident.