News, October 2004

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While illegals risk all, government changes immigration rules

15th September. After a summer of daily news about detention of illegals attempting to cross the Straits, or bodies washed up on the beaches, the government has announced changes in the rules about recognition of the 'paperless people' already here. Recognition and work permits may now be easier to obtain through 'denouncing' their employers.

Daily news of deaths and detentions of illegal immigrants on the Straits of Gibraltar, further along the coast of andalusia and on the beaches of the Canary islands is part of the regular news bulletin in Spain. One one occasion over 500 attempted to break through the fence surrounding the Spanish enclave of melilla on the North African coast, while a similar or larger number were detained in Sierra Leone aboard a ship which was specially prepared to sink itself off the Canary coast. This said, it appears that the total number recorded has fallen over the year.

Meanwhile, more and more illegal, 'paperless' people are appearing in Spain from Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, many working illegally and with no posibility to gain their papers except by presenting themselves in the Spanish Consulate in their home country and joining the queue.

The new government has been reexamining the immigration rules and the actual state of things over the summer. Many ideas have been suggested to change things. Now it has taken a decision which will be one of the first issues to be dealt with as deputies return to the Cortes after the summer break.

Immigrants who can demonstrate they have been working for a single employer for a year can, form October, 'denounce' the firm and obtain work permit, while the firm can escape penalty by taking on the worker for another year with a full salary and social security. Employers should be able to obtain permits earlier, when they take on the immigrants, who will therefore not be required to show how they arrived.

The Partido Popular fears that this will encourage the mafias who are trafficking with humans, thus causing another escalation in attempted crossings of the Straits by the 'boat people'. Curiously, this new twist in the immigration and employment regulations appears on the surface to be a much more 'free market' policy than the conservative partido Popuar had in place.