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Morocco calls for 'genuine Marshall Plan' to tackle illegal immigration

Morocco's interior minister called for a "genuine Marshall plan" for sub-Saharan Africa to resolve the causes of illegal immigration, and Spain announced plans to build a third high-security fence in its enclave Melilla. Interior Minister Mustafa Sahel issued the appeal on the margins of a meeting in Rabat of southern European and North African interior ministry officials.

He said Mediterranean countries must cooperate more effectively against illegal immigration. He urged European nations to open up the possibilities for legal immigration and appealed for a "genuine Marshall plan in favor of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa." The original Marshall Plan helped revive Europe after World War II.

Saleh's comments came a day after some 650 Africans ripped through a high-security fence, struggling over razor wire and fighting with police, in the latest and biggest border rush.

Monday's assault prompted Spain's interior ministry to announce additional reinforcements of the borders.

Spanish Interior Ministry delegate Jose Fernandez Chacon said "a third fence (between Melilla and Morocco) was being studied and would be built with urgency."

Speaking on Spanish National Radio, Fernandez Chacon said the measure was part of a plan that last week saw the deployment of troops and a speeding up of work to heighten one of the existing two fences.

Officials at the Interior Ministry in Melilla said they had no more details of the plan.

"The immigrants are very agitated because they're afraid the Spanish are reinforcing their means to prevent them from entering Europe," a Spanish Interior Ministry source said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission said it will send a mission to Morocco and the Spanish enclaves to assess the problems of illegal immigration.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said he is also seeking to release up to $48 million to help Morocco secure its borders. The technical mission to the area would show the EU's commitment to make sure Rabat can deal with the problem.

Immigrant support groups said action by Moroccan security forces was causing more immigrants to try to cross.

"Faced with growing arrests, the illegals have two possibilities: either to try to cross into Spain whatever it costs, or to be expelled from Morocco. They chose to charge," said Khalid Jemmah, president of the association of families and friends of illegal immigration.

The Melilla governor's office said 135 people had been injured during the latest assault and almost doubled initial reports on how many people took part.

Hospital authorities in the Moroccan town of Nador, next to Melilla, said they had treated 18 injured immigrants, including two with fractured limbs and another whose hand had been torn on the fence.

The raiders "brought down the fence for 20 meters in two places," an official statement said, while an AFP journalist said that they had used makeshift ladders at two spots where the barrier was about 6 meters high.

Moroccan authorities said they had made 194 arrests in the district known as Barrio Chino and had begun an inquiry into the incident.

Casablanca,10 10 2005
Redaction
The Daily Star
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