France, Spain tackle immigration control problem

17th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

BARCELONA, Spain, Oct 17 (AFP) - French prime minister Dominique de Villepin said Monday he backed a Spanish proposal for a conference of European and African states to address the problem of immigration.

BARCELONA, Spain, Oct 17 (AFP) - French prime minister Dominique de Villepin said Monday he backed a Spanish proposal for a conference of European and African states to address the problem of immigration.

"France supports the Spanish idea of a European-African conference on immigration," de Villepin said following talks in Barcelona with his host, Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The issue came to a head last month with a series of assaults by thousands of sub-Saharan African immigrants on fencing at the Spanish border surrounding the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

At least 14 people died in their attempt to leap over the fencing after trekking across vast swathes of Africa to northern Morocco.

Last week, Morocco and Spain mooted the idea of an EU-African conference bringing together countries affected by immigration after Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visited Rabat.

Zapatero and Villepin used Monday's summit talks in Barcelona to touch on immigration as they dealt with a range of cooperation issues.

Zapatero told his French counterpart that illegal immigration from sub-Saharan Africa was an issue that concerned the whole of Africa and Europe and one that Spain and Morocco could not deal with alone.

"Europe refuses to take the African immigrants, but Spain and Morocco cannot play the role of EU policeman on their own," a Zapatero spokesman told AFP, adding it was "time to act" to solve a "humanitarian drama."

The Spanish daily ABC had earlier reported that the French and German interior ministers had complained "this week" about Spanish immigration policy, saying that "25,000 illegals from black Africa have crossed the Pyrénées in the past few months" to France, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Quoting police experts, ABC said another 25,000 were still in Spain.

According to the paper, French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy had dubbed the Spanish government the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" in terms of immigration while the paper quoted German counterpart Otto Schily as saying that "massive (immigrant) regularisation has the knock-on effect of attracting new illegals."

ABC did not reveal when the two men made the reported comments.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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