Illegals rush to border for Spanish amnesty

26th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

BAYONNE, France, April 26 (AFP) - Police on the border between France and Spain say they have nabbed hundreds of illegal aliens - most of them from India and Pakistan - trying to take advantage of a Spanish amnesty.

BAYONNE, France, April 26 (AFP) - Police on the border between France and Spain say they have nabbed hundreds of illegal aliens - most of them from India and Pakistan - trying to take advantage of a Spanish amnesty.  

The window closes on May 7.  

It opened on February 7 to allow illegal immigrants in Spain, many of whom make a perilous crossing from north Africa in un-seaworthy craft, to regularise their situation.  

An AFP correspondent at the Biriatou border post in southwest France saw more than 100 aliens arriving there Monday in minibuses driven by Spanish police. They were handed over to French police.  

Another 100 or so were nabbed on Saturday, the French border police told AFP, adding that dozens of others had crossed the border into Spain in cars, by train, and even on foot.  

"These clandestine immigrants are hoping to obtain permanent resident status in the European Union," a French police officer said, adding that the Spanish authorities feared the rush would keep going right up to the May 7 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.  

Illegal immigrants handed over to the French police at Biriatou are taken to a police station in the nearby town of Hendaye for questioning.  

Many of the Indians and Pakistanis, all of them male, and mostly young, have come from Germany or Italy, or from Paris.  

They claim they do not speak English or any mainland European language, and the local police have no access to Hindi or Urdu interpreters.  

That 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, an officer said.  

No organisation is looking after them, and dozens have congregated at the Hendaye railway station - many of them broke - to try to work out what to do next.  

Others continue to arrive, paying taxi-drivers EUR 100 (USD 130) to take four or five of them over the border.  

"The French police told me: 'If you go again in Spain we are allowed to keep you in jail five days,'" said a 31-year-old Pakistani, speaking in English, but with some difficulty.   

He gave his name only as Muhammad, adding that he was going to try to get over the frontier again later in the day.  

Muhammad 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.
  

© AFP

Subject: French News

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