Spain calls for tougher action to stop immigrants

4th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

4 September 2006, MADRID — Spain's deputy prime minister said on Monday Madrid will not tolerate the mass arrival of more illegal immigrants in the Canary Islands.

4 September 2006

MADRID — Spain's deputy prime minister said on Monday Madrid will not tolerate the mass arrival of more illegal immigrants in the Canary Islands.

María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, who was addressing a meeting of Spanish ambassadors, said Spain will act "firmly" to halt the flow of thousands of migrants to the islands.

The move came after record numbers of migrants came to the islands over the past four days.

More than 2,400 illegal immigrants arrived between last Thursday and Sunday, breaking all previous records.

So far this year, official figures show that almost 20,000 illegal migrants, mainly from African countries, have arrived in the Canary Islands hoping to gain entry into the huge European labour market.

Despite the danger of the 1,500 km journey, there seems to be an endless supply of sub-Saharans desperate for the chance to make the trip and get to European Union territory to find work.

People smugglers charge some USD 840 per person for the voyage but many of the migrants never make it to the Canaries because their rickety boats sink.

The Red Cross estimates that in just the first quarter of 2006, more than 1,200 Africans drowned trying to get to Spanish territory.

A European Union operation using vessels and aircraft from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Finland started last month.

But it proved to be incapable to halting the flow.

It prompted the Canaries' regional government to ask for United Nations intervention to avert an "international humanitarian catastrophe".

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has acknowledged the importance of immigration for Spain's economic growth, but says Madrid cannot accept all those from abroad who want to enter the country.

Spain has repatriated 52,000 illegal immigrants, most of them citizens of Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan and India.

The opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) has said that the government's special immigrant status regularization programme - under which last year Madrid provided legal residence documents to some 800,000 foreigners - has been counterproductive.

PP leader Mariano Rajoy last week criticized the government for its "incompetence, inefficiency and demagoguery" in seeking to place blame - shifting it onto the back of the EU - rather than taking responsibility in the matter.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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