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French Version

Spain threatens illegals with immediate deportation

Amnesty says human rights being violated

Immigrants entering Spain illegally run the risk of immediate deportation, Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said, in the wake of a wave of mass storming of two tiny Spanish enclaves in Morocco by hundreds of people from sub-Saharan Africa.

"The message for immigrants without papers must be clear: those who come in leave immediately," Alonso told the Catalan newspaper El Periodico.

Spain was set to fly a new group of 150 immigrants from its North African enclave of Melilla to holding centers on the Spanish mainland, ahead of their likely deportation, police said.

"It will make it clear that the stories told by the mafiosi who are manipulating the immigrants are not true and their suffering is pointless," the minister added.

Asked about the human rights of the immigrants, Alonso said: "We are discussing this with Morocco and I think the European Union should intervene robustly."

Amnesty International said Spanish authorities were violating human rights conventions by expelling the immigrants.

Amnesty's director for Spain, Esteban Beltran, said that authorities expelled the immigrants without identifying them or considering their possible status as economic refugees or asylum seekers.

"No effort was made to ascertain their names or status," Beltran said. "That is illegal."

On Saturday about 100 illegal immigrants who had broken through the perimeter fence around Melilla, a 20-square-kilometer patch of Spain on the north Moroccan coast, were flown to Malaga to ease an overcrowded reception center in the enclave.

On Thursday, Spain deported to Morocco 73 people who had managed to break through the perimeter fence surrounding its Melilla enclave.

Alonso said the problem of illegal immigration "only has one long-term solution: African development."

"In the meantime, Spain must protect its borders and apply its laws. Our immigration policy is to only receive those immigrants to whom we can give work and integrate socially. The others cannot come in," he added.

Spain only has repatriation agreements with Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Nigeria and Morocco. Such orders can only be used on citizens of those countries.

Madrid is urgently working to finalize repatriation deals with Mali and Ghana, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said last week.

A EU Commission technical team arrived in Melilla to work out how best to deal with the wave of immigrants attempting to break into the enclaves.

Morocco, by several accounts, is dealing with the problem by dumping hundreds of would-be immigrants in the desert, on the Algerian border. Medical charity Medecins sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders - MSF), whose team on the ground discovered the group of about 500 on Friday, said Moroccan authorities were set yesterday to repatriate them.

The migrants, mostly from Mali, Cameroon, Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal, said earlier that Moroccan security forces had driven them deep into the desert by bus, one night almost a week ago, and left them to their fate.

Senegal's ambassador to Morocco said he had visited a group of 300 of his compatriots in the town of Bouarfa, 540 kilometers east of Rabat, from where they were due to be repatriated that day with another 190 Senegalese picked up near Melilla. Ibou Ddiaye said 131 of those now in Bouarfa had been found wandering in the desert 250 kilometers to the south. An AFP journalist in Bouarfa said he saw dozens of people from Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Niger who had been bused in on Saturday after spending several days in the desert.

Casablanca,10 10 2005
Redaction
The Daily Star
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