Spain tightens rules on illegal immigrants

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New rules include preventing parents from joining children who had emigrated to Spain and detaining illegal immigrants for a longer period of time.

MADRID – Spain's government Friday approved tougher rules for illegal immigrants, including an extension to the legal limit for their detention and restrictions on parents joining their children in the country.

The proposed changes to the immigration law mean illegal immigrants could be held for 60 days instead of 40 previously before being deported to their home countries, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega announced following a cabinet meeting.

The announcement comes after the European parliament in June tightened restrictions on illegal immigrants, including allowing detention for up to 18 months prior to expulsion.

Those measures, which could come into force in 2010, have been criticised by human rights groups, as well as the UN's top human rights official.

Spain along with France currently has the shortest custody times for illegal immigrants in the EU.

The new measures, which must be passed by parliament before becoming law, would also prevent parents from joining their children who had emigrated to Spain, blocking them from joining the growing numbers of the country's unemployed.

But they would allow non-governmental organisations to visit detention centres for illegal immigrants.

The number of immigrants in Spain has rocketed from 500,000 in 1996 to 5.2 million currently, including 2.2 million from outside the EU, out of a total population of 46 million.

But the country as suffered an abrupt downturn in its economy since the property sector collapsed last year, leading to soaring unemployment.

The government announced in October it planned to slash the number of jobs on offer to foreigners recruited in their countries of origin, mostly in low-skilled areas like construction which has been hard-hit by the country's economic malaise.

In September, it passed a law that rewards immigrants who volunteer to return home, on condition they do not return to Spain for three years.

[AFP / Expatica]

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