Last dash across border for desperate refugees

26th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

26 April 2005, MADRID — Police on the border between Spain and France have arrested hundreds of illegal immigrants who are desperately trying to take advantage of a Spanish immigration amnesty.

26 April 2005

MADRID — Police on the border between Spain and France have arrested hundreds of illegal immigrants who are desperately trying to take advantage of a Spanish immigration amnesty.

The amnesty, which ends on 7 May, has prompted hundreds to make dangerous crossings from Africa in unsafe boats.

But now more than 200 illegal immigrants, mostly from India and Pakistan, have been caught on the Spanish-French border — driving, taking trains or just walking across. They were handed back by Spanish police by their French counterparts.

They had crossed the border in an attempt to get legal status in Spain before the amnesty ends next week.

"These clandestine immigrants are hoping to obtain permanent resident
status in the European Union," a French police officer said.

The Spanish authorities fear the rush will keep going right up to the 7 May
deadline. The influx has surprised authorities because the amnesty applies only to immigrants who have been living in Spain since August last year and hold a work contract.

Many of the illegal immigrants handed over to the French police are Indians and Pakistanis — all of them male and mostly young — and have come from Germany, Italy, or France.

They claim they do not speak English or any mainland European language, and
the local police have no access to Hindi or Urdu interpreters. This means the police are unable to notify them that they want to hold them longer for questioning, and are therefore obliged to let them go without starting any expulsion procedure, a French police officer said.

No aid organisations are on the French border at Hendaye in south-west France to help.

Others continue to arrive, paying taxi-drivers up to EUR 100 to take four or five of them over the border.

Muhammad, a 31-year-old Pakistani, was caught earlier at San Sebastian, just over the border, after having come south from Paris by high-speed train.

"Spain is our last chance. For many, it's like a dream," he said, explaining that illegal Indians and Pakistanis in Europe believed Spain would be more welcoming than other countries.

"It's a shame because too many are living for 10 years in France and they can't have papers," he said.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]


Subject: Spanish news

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