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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK
Spanish worry over immigrant rise
Moroccan immigrants in Spain
Spain is concerned over the rising numbers
By Flora Botsford in Madrid

Spain has complained to the Moroccan ambassador about the problem of illegal immigration after nearly 1,000 new arrivals in less than a week.

The Spanish foreign minister has described the situation as unacceptable and has called on Morocco to honour an agreement signed last month to do more to control the mafias on its coastline.

Twelve kilometres (7.5 miles) separate the coast of Morocco from southern Spain, a common point of entry for illegal immigrants into Europe.

While the numbers involved are nothing like as high as other European countries such as Italy, Germany or Britain, it is clear that Spain is finding it difficult to cope with all the illegal immigrants turning up on its shores.


They come almost every day, crossing the narrow straits of Gibraltar in small boats, many of them controlled by mafias operating in Morocco in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

Some 500 illegal immigrants were caught at the weekend
More than 500 illegal immigrants were intercepted over the weekend, nearly 1,000 in the past week.

So far this year, twice as many have been intercepted as in the whole of the year 2000.

Not all are Moroccans, although they make up the highest proportion.

Increasingly, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are also entering Spain via Morocco.

Pressing Morocco

In Madrid on Wednesday, foreign ministry officials met a senior representative of the Moroccan Government, Abdelkader Mosleih.

They complained in the strongest terms that the situation was unacceptable and that Morocco must do more to help stem the flow.

The two countries already have an agreement that any Moroccans found to be Spain illegally will be repatriated without having to go through any lengthy extradition or asylum process.

There is also an agreement to allow entry to a certain number of Moroccans every year with valid work permits.

But what Spain mainly wants is for the Moroccan authorities to investigate and penalise the mafias controlling the human trafficking business.

It is known to be highly lucrative and to operate effectively, despite ever tighter controls and surveillance on the Spanish side.

The BBC's David Bamford
"Three quarters of a million people currently... (are) living clandestinely in Spanish cities"
See also:

19 Aug 01 | Europe
Spain nets 550 illegal immigrants
06 Feb 01 | Europe
Asylum seekers: Europe's dilemma
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Spain
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