Spain says Arizona illegal immigrant law 'raises tensions'

1st June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A controversial immigration law passed in the US state of Arizona is not an example Spain should follow as it will only raise tensions, a senior government official said Tuesday.

The secretary of state for immigration, Anna Terron, said Spain should resist calls for similar approaches "because they do not solve anything" and instead "stigmatise" and "dehumanise" immigrants.

"It would not resolve any of the problems which we have and would raise social tensions," she added at a conference on immigration from Latin America to Spain.

The law passed by Arizona, which borders Mexico, in April makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people are in the United States illegally.

It has raised the hackles of civil rights groups on both sides of the border, who believe it will open the door to racial profiling.

The Arizona law has drawn protests from Mexican President Felipe Calderon that resonate throughout Latin America, home to the vast majority of the estimated 10.8 million immigrants in the United States illegally.

Terron said Spain "expels" immigrants found to be in the country illegally but added it was "reasonable to do so when people are detected entering the country" and not once they have established themselves.

Spain expels mostly migrants who have been caught trying to enter the country illegally by boat from Africa.

In recent years immigrant rights groups have complained that police have begun to round up illegal immigrants who are then expelled from the country.

Asked if this practice was similar to the Arizona law, Terron denied that police were detaining people in Spain "due to their physical appearance".

"At the insistence of many people, I have spoken with the interior ministry which has assured me that there is no policy of detaining people indiscriminately due to their physical appearance," she added.

The number of immigrants in Spain rocketed from around 500,000 in 1996 to 5.7 million currently, or about 12 percent, of the country's total population of 47 million people.

© 2010 AFP

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