Europe turns a deaf ear to Spanish pleas for migrant aid
21 September 2006
TAMPERE, FINLAND — Spanish appeals for more help in dealing with its immigration crisis fell on deaf ears at a meeting of European ministers on Thursday.
Justice and interior ministers from across the EU appeared unmoved by calls for more help at two-day meeting in Finland.
Spain’s justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said his country could not handle the massive numbers of Africans trying to get to the Canary Islands.
He told the meeting: “We are not going to stop until the whole of the European Union provides for an answer, because an answer is needed. … A European response at large scale is needed.”
Other southern EU nations, including Italy, Greece and Malta, are backing Madrid’s call for more money and for the EU’s new external borders agency, Frontex, to coordinate more long-term patrols of the Mediterranean and off Africa’s Atlantic coast.
Lopez Aguilar also appealed to other EU governments to do more to increase aid to Africa’s poorest nations, from where most of the illegal migrants come.
More than 23,000 migrants have made the dangerous ocean crossings from northwest Africa to the Canary Islands so far this year.
Madrid has complained EU aid has been insufficient.
Only a few EU states — Finland and Italy each sent one plane, while Portugal and Italy sent boats — have come to help Spain.
EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said the EU should set up permanent ‘rapid reaction teams’ with boats, planes and experts to help EU countries hit by large numbers of illegal immigrants.
But Germany’s interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said his country was willing to show solidarity, but was reluctant to give more money or other aid.
“If you really want to solve a problem, you should not start by calling for other peoples’ money,” he said.
Other ministers criticised Spain’s decision last year to give an amnesty to 600,000 illegal immigrants in a bid to remove them from the black economy and get them to pay taxes.
Guenther Beckstein, interior minister of the German state of Bavaria, said: “Twenty-thousand or 25,000 fugitives landing on the Canary Islands won’t sink Spain.”
“A few years ago, we had 448,000 refugees in a single year and we managed that by ourselves, with difficulties, but we managed.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission said it would give EUR 3.3 million to Spain, Italy and Malta to strengthen first aid and reception centres for illegal immigrants in the Canary Islands, and for maritime surveillance of Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news