Immigrant hunt in Murcia sparks fear of hard-line stance

30th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

The small Murcian town of Torre Pacheco bore witness to a concerted crackdown on illegal immigration on Saturday.

30 June 2008

TORRE PACHECO - In an apparently stark shift in Spain's immigration policy, the small Murcian town of Torre Pacheco Saturday bore witness to a concerted crackdown on illegal immigration.

Sixty officers of the police's immigration unit blocked the town's main thoroughfare for over four hours in search of undocumented foreign nationals. Of 301 immigrants corralled into the town's three main squares, 58 were detained and served with expulsion orders. Of the detainees, nine already had such orders pending against them.

Kamal Rahmouni, president of the Association of Moroccan Workers in Spain (Atime), described the operation as "an immigrant hunt".

"They [the police] took anybody who looked Moroccan, or was black or Ecuadorian from the bars, the long-distance telephone centres and even from the mosque. They took them to the town squares and asked for their documentation."

The government has denied that the police entered the mosque and insists that officers acted within the confines of the law. Two translators accompanied police.

Atime has sought clarification from Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba as to whether such swoops will become commonplace. At a meeting convened Saturday, Atime officials voiced concern that the event was an indication of a new hard-line approach to immigration. Many of those detained have asserted that they intend to report the officers involved.

"Like a bad movie"
"It is shameful for a county like Spain. It was like a bad Hollywood film," said Rahmouni. "They detained hundreds of people for several hours, without offering them food or water, in the middle of summer. There were pensioners among them, and one woman who had gone out to buy food for her children."

The raid met with the approval of some local residents, however. Several voiced their belief that it would help to reduce crime in the community. Four of those held are accused of identity theft, and five others had previously been deported - returning to Spain illegally before the imposed timeframe for doing so had elapsed. They will appear in court on Monday.

Torre Pacheco has a population of 29,000 inhabitants, of which 6,060 are immigrants, with the large majority - 3,000 - of Moroccan descent. Atime believes the real figure may be closer to 5,000.

[El Pais / Tono Calleja / Expatica]

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