Spanish parliament approves controversial immigration law
Spain's lower house of parliament has approved a controversial law that allows illegal immigrants to be held in detention centres for 60 days before being deported.Madrid – Spain's lower house of parliament has approved a controversial law which extends from 40 to 60 days the maximum period that illegal immigrants can be held in detention centres before being deported.
The draft law also imposes restrictions on parents joining their immigrant children in Spain, which has seen the unemployment rate soar to nearly 18 percent, the highest level in the European Union.
It now goes to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, and if it passes as expected the new rules will take effect in 2010.
The draft law has drawn widespread criticism from Latin America, from where the bulk of Spain's immigrants come from as well as from rights groups who point out it allows illegal immigrants to be held for longer than criminal suspects.
But the conservative opposition Popular Party accuses the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's of not doing enough to curb illegal immigration.
Spain's secretary of state for immigration, Consuelo Rumi, said the law was "modern, has integrity, was in favour of integration, reinforces the efficiency of the fights against illegal immigration and puts the focus on order, control and legality."
The new law comes at a time of mounting concern over immigration in Spain, which entered into its first recession in 15 years at the end of last year.
One in two Spaniards, 46 percent, see immigration as a serious threat, according to a 2008 poll by the Real Instituto Elcano think tank.
The number of immigrants in Spain has rocketed from 500,000 in 1996 to 5.5 million in 2008 out of a total population of 46.7 million people.
Romanians make up Spain's largest foreign community with 796,576 members, followed by Moroccans with 710,401 members and Ecuadorians with 413,715.