Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Almost 1,000 African illegal immigrants arrive in Canaries in just over a day


Almost 1,000 illegal immigrants have arrived in the Canary Islands in just over a day and the regional president on Wednesday called the tide of African boat people Spain's worst humanitarian crisis since its Civil War.

The record rate of arrivals, compared with 4,751 in all of 2005, came as Spain's government said it would seek to make a joint proposal on immigration with France and Italy at the next European Union summit in Finland on October 20.

A poll by radio station Cadena Ser showed that 89 percent of Spaniards thought too many immigrants were arriving, after months in which footage of exhausted Africans arriving in overcrowded wooden boats have dominated daily news bulletins.

"This is Spain's worst humanitarian crisis since the Civil War," said Adan Martin, president of the Canaries' regional government, referring to the bloody 1930s conflict.

A total of 930 would-be migrants, who risked their lives in a dangerous sea journey hugging the coast from West Africa, arrived in the Canaries in just over 24 hours up to Wednesday morning, the islands' emergency services said.

Spain's Socialist government has asked for European Union help to stem the flow and has warned African countries such as Senegal that it is fed up with their lack of cooperation in accepting back their repatriated citizens.

Spain wants the European Union to provide more aid for policing the seas and wants a European policy on marine patrols.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has agreed with his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi to present a joint proposal with France, although a Spanish official said it was too early to say what this would be.

But the European Commission has said Spain is partly to blame for tempting poor Africans to try their luck with a mass amnesty of illegal immigrants last year.

Currently, almost all Africans arriving illegally in the Canaries refuse to reveal their nationality in order to avoid repatriation. They are then flown to mainland Spain after a few weeks where they are released after being given a piece of paper requesting they leave the country.

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Living Underground


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