TravelAfrican population in Spain

African population in Spain

Spain is one of the European countries with the highest number of foreigners, along with France and Italy. While the immigrant population used to come from Latin America or other European countries such as Romania, by the end of 2021, the census recorded 1,198,573 African immigrants driven by the proximity between the two countries.

One out of every six foreigners living in Spain comes from Africa. And if we take into account only immigrants coming from countries outside Europe, Africans account for 44% of the total.

Immigrants from different African countries decide to try their luck in Spain even without knowing how to speak Spanish. Many of them speak French and their mother tongue but often do not have a good command of the Spanish language. However, it is not something that worries them since they know that they will learn along the way and that there are many schools like Expanish where they can understand.

Most Africans are forced to emigrate to obtain a better quality of life or because they are fleeing from hunger and poverty or natural disasters; however, some believe that one of the main reasons could be the plundering of minerals and natural resources in Africa. People flee their countries because those appropriating the natural resources (the rulers of the same country and foreign capital – many of them European) make their lives impossible and almost always use violent methods. Given this context, many do not mind the risks they must take to reach the neighboring country. 

Returning to the number of Africans living in Spain, let’s see which cities are the most populated by African residents.


Barcelona is the city with the most significant number of African residents (about 182 thousand). Between 2019 and 2020, there has been a substantial increase in immigration, which meant the entry of 11 thousand new residents. 

One of the reasons why immigrants tend to feel very comfortable. The Catalan province is home to incredible cultural diversity, as people from all over the world reside there. They also have the possibility to learn Spanish in Barcelona as the locals there are very willing to help foreigners to learn the local language.


The city with the most African residents, after Barcelona, is Madrid; with 113 thousand residents from Africa. The case of Madrid is very similar to that of Barcelona, as it is also a city with a lot of cultural diversity and possibilities.

Other provinces

Next comes Murcia, with approximately 105,000 African residents. Almeria follows it with a little more than 79,000 and Alicante with 70,000.

Why do they choose Spain?

On the one hand, big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid offer more opportunities because of the job offer. It should also be taken into account that due to the broad professional range, a significant amount of job insecurity is generated, including cheap labor or temporary and irregular jobs, which immigrants generally occupy.

Another critical factor is the proximity between Africa and Spain. Most Africans migrating to Spain usually enter through Andalusia or the coastal area, generally from Ceuta or Melilla. Today, 75% of all African immigrants originate from Morocco, the neighboring country to Spain (specifically from the province of Andalusia).

Although the journey is complicated and dangerous, as it involves crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, the distance is relatively short compared to other possible countries in which to reside.

Thes that are furthest away from the Gibraltar area have the least number of African residents; this is not surprising since it is a more distant destination. For example, the province of Zamora has the lowest number of African residents, with only 956 people. The same is true for the provinces of Ourense, Soria, and Palencia, which are home to a population of 1410, 1916, and 2168 Africans, respectively.

The severe problem of refugees and the population

Spain is not only one of the countries with the most significant number of foreign residents but also the country with the most significant number of refugees and the largest irregular population. In fact, in 2021, the highest number of deaths at sea registered so far occurred when trying to reach the Spanish coasts, more precisely, the Canary Islands archipelago.

The same happens when Moroccans cross the sea through the Strait of Gibraltar, a difficult feat due to the strong currents where the sea meets. Many migrants never reach Spanish soil and drown in the attempt.

It is important to remember that the figures detailed in this article refer only to African foreigners legally residing in Spain. However, it should be considered that the total demographic of African migrants is much higher than the one detailed here if refugees and irregular flows are taken into account.

Unfortunately, there is no concrete data on the number of immigrants in an irregular situation; we can only affirm that there are more than half a million people.

However, it is essential to clarify that this figure covers all irregular immigrants, including those of different nationalities. It does not refer only to Africans. In fact, of the total number of irregular immigrants, Africans constitute a minor portion; it is estimated to be around 10%. It is also known that of that 10%, more than half come from Morocco.

There are countries such as the United States and Canada triple the rate of irregular immigrants from Africa, which shows that the Spanish migratory regime is based on other, much more humane priorities.

In conclusion, the flow of African immigrants will continue to increase if their country of origin does not consider changing the inhuman living conditions experienced there. The number of Africans seeking a new life in Spain will grow continuously, pushed by mafias and violence.

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