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The BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid
"The distinction between illegals and legals is to stem the tide of illegal immigration"
 real 28k

Professor David Edye, University of North London
"It is a problem of political leadership"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 09:58 GMT
Spain tightens immigration law
Immigrants' protest
Ecuadorian immigrants protest in Lorca
A new immigration law has come into force in Spain, which could lead to the expulsion of thousands of people who entered Spain illegally.

The law will also strip immigrant workers of the rights of association, protest and strike.


The government had to change the law, but they're killing flies with cannon balls

Immigration lawyer Fernando Olivan
The legislation has sparked protests across Spain. In Barcelona, several hundred immigrants staging a sit-in at a church have launched a hunger strike.

The new legislation is aimed at stemming the tide of illegal immigrants which Spain has been battling for the past year.

But human rights organisations say the measures are too restrictive.

Expulsions

The BBC correspondent in Madrid, Flora Botsford, says the law makes a clearer distinction than previously between legal and illegal immigrants.

The new measures make it easier to expel illegal immigrants. Around 30,000 people who unsuccessfully applied for residency or work permits in 2000 could now face deportation.

Protest in Valencia
Around 1,000 people in Valencia showed their support for the immigrants
The Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, admitted that Spain needed immigrants to do work Spanish people would no longer do, but said it could only take on those with legal status.

"It is one thing to have to solve the problem of illegal immigration... but to give the same rights to both legal and illegal immigrants, that is something unthinkable," he said.

But immigration lawyer Fernando Olivan says the new law will only build tension between the government and immigrants.

"The government had to change the law, but they're killing flies with cannon balls," he said.

Protests

Around 350 immigrants have locked themselves in the church of Santa Maria Pi in the Old Town of Barcelona and have gone on hunger strike in protest at the new law.

They are said to come from Pakistan, Russia, Ecuador, India and Morocco.

A spokeswoman said their strike would go on indefinitely.

Immigrants are also staging sit-ins at churches in other cities in Spain. In Valencia a crowd of 1,000 people demanded at the weekend that the government give help to immigrants.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Europe
Spain plans immigration crackdown
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Spain
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