Spain moves to stem immigration

Spain has appealed for help from the EU to stem the tide of illegal immigrants arriving in the Canary Islands which has almost reached 19,000 this year.

    The Canaries has seen a record number of immigrants

    Three boats carrying 162 people made port in Tenerife and nearby El Hierro island on Tuesday meaning more than 18,900 immigrants have arrived in such fashion in 2006, which, according to regional government sources, is a record for a single year.

    On Monday 300 Africans, dozens of whom required medical treatment, arrived in another three boats.

    With this year's total influx four times that of 2005, Madrid has, for the second time this year, urged EU partners to help.

    This month's arrivals alone have topped the 4,700 mark, according to regional officials, more than the total for all of last year, according to Canary Islands authorities.

    Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the Spanish first deputy prime minister, was in Finland, the current European Union presidency holder, on Tuesday and was to go on to Brussels to demand greater EU involvement in fighting illegal immigration.

    'Humanitarian catastrophe'

    Her office said on Monday that she was to meet senior  officials, including Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, to "stress the need to reinforce [EU] community means to deal with the arrivals".

    De la Vega in May managed to win EU agreement to set up a mission on the Canaries under the aegis of the EU's border control agency Frontex, which is to help Spain repatriate immigrants and bolster air and sea patrols off the coast of Senegal, Cape Verde and Mauritania.

    After ministerial talks last week in Dakar, Spain obtained agreement in principle from Senegal, from where many of the immigrants come from, to join the Frontex scheme, which began operating this month.

    After Monday's arrivals, the government of the Canaries called on EU states and the international community to help halt "a humanitarian catastrophe", estimating that around 490 would-be immigrants have died at sea this year.

    SOURCE: AFP


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