AU: Walls won't stop immigrants

The chief executive of the African Union, who lamented the recent deaths on the Morocco-Spain border, has warned that "walls and prisons" cannot prevent immigrants trying to enter Europe illegally.

    Alpha Oumar Konare (C) said poverty must be tackled (file)

    Alpha Oumar Konare on Wednesday said the underlying economic and social reasons had to be tackled, to avoid a repetition of the scenes in which African immigrants died trying to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.

    "It's not security measures, it's not prisons in Madrid and walls in Africa that will solve the problem," said Konare after talks with European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.

    "These youths that we're seeing today defying barbed wire and walls are not ruffians, they're not bandits," he said.

    Fourteen people have died in recent months while trying to break into the enclaves, some of them shot by Moroccan security forces.

    The African leader said the underlying problems which fueled an exodus of poor Africans had to be tackled.

    "We have to have the courage to broach the problem of farm subsidies, which weaken our economy and impoverish out rural areas," he said, in a clear reference to the EU's long-controversial generous farm aid system.

    More immigrants repatriated

    Morocco, which has come under fire for dumping hundreds of the would-be immigrants in desert areas near the Algerian border, flew 139 illegal immigrants to Mali on Wednesday, government officials said, according to a Reuters report.

    Senegalese are repatriated from
    Morocco by plane on Monday

    Rabat expects to reach a new accord with Spain to bolster its struggle against illegal migration, they added.

    "More Malian migrant groups will be flown on four similar flights later today and on Thursday from Oujda to bring the total number of Malians to be deported to 606," said a senior government official, who declined to be named.

    Oujda is 540km (337 miles) east of Rabat and is an entry point for illegal migrants from Algeria.

    The Moroccan government, which deported 549 Senegalese migrants to Dakar on Monday and Tuesday, vowed to deport more illegal sub-Sahara African migrants to their home countries.

    EU warning

    Meanwhile, the European Union on Wednesday said thousands more illegal migrants were heading for Spain's North African enclaves, Reuters reported.

    The EU's top immigration official said the problem of immigrants gate-crashing Melilla and Ceuta or finding other ways to reach Europe was enormous, and it was time to act.

    "Intelligence suggests that around 20,000 immigrants are waiting in Algeria ready to begin their journey to Morocco and then Ceuta and Melilla with another 10,000 already waiting in Morocco," Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini told EU ministers according to a copy of his speech notes.

    Immigrants lie exhausted after
    crossing the Morocco-Melilla fence

    "This is a clear indication of the mounting migration pressure on Morocco and Europe. There is no indication that the present high migratory pressure ... will decrease in the short term," he told justice and interior ministers of member states.

    Frattini said the 25-nation bloc and Morocco should step up border cooperation as well as their fight against trafficking in people, and that the EU should help Rabat train border guards.

    Britain's Europe minister Douglas Alexander, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, acknowledged that the border deaths highlighted the problem facing Europe.

    "The tragic loss of life of .... those seeking to cross the European Union's borders illegally has sharply brought into focus the problems we face in managing migration flows and tackling illegal immigration," he told the European Parliament in a debate on immigration.

    The crisis at Ceuta and Melilla and the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, which is also an arrival point for many illegal immigrants, highlights the gap in wealth between poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa and prosperous European states.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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