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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 17:38 GMT
Anger in Spain at migrant models
A Senegalese illegal immigrant models clothes for Antonio Miro in Barcelona
Mr Miro said he paid the models a small fee
A designer has caused a stir in Spain by using illegal immigrants as catwalk models in a Barcelona fashion show.

Antonio Miro's show also featured a battered boat similar to the ones that transport thousands of poverty-stricken Africans to Spanish shores each year.

Mr Miro, who has featured prisoners in past shows, said he wanted to draw attention to the migrants' plight.

At least half of almost 30,000 illegal arrivals in Spain's Canary Islands, off West Africa, in 2006 were Senegalese.

Mr Miro defended his initiative, saying that he wanted to show solidarity toward immigrants.

He said some of the eight immigrants used in the catwalk show had started the process of obtaining Spanish work permits, while the others were in the country illegally.

"It's a way of giving them a tiny bit of me," Mr Miro said, adding that they were paid a small fee.


Representatives of Senegalese immigrants described Mr Miro's decision as unfortunate and frivolous.

"Every day there are mothers who weep for their sons lost at sea," said Abdulaye Konate, the head of the Senegalese Immigrants Association for the Balearic Islands.

Antonio Miro (2R) poses with Senegalese illegal immigrants used as models in his catwalk show
It's good that not only NGOs denounce the situation the immigrants are going through
Javier Perez, SOS Racismo

"While there are cayucos [crowded open boats], you can't have parties and laughs," he said.

However, pro-migrant group SOS Racismo welcomed the fashion parade.

"As long as it's in good taste, fashion is an art form, like cinema or painting," said spokesman Javier Perez.

"It's good that not only NGOs denounce the situation the immigrants are going through when they come by boat to Spain," he said.

Hundreds of people die at sea every year as they try to make the perilous crossing from Senegal to the Canaries in overcrowded fishing boats.

The EU has also set up a rapid reaction force of border guards, called Frontex, to try to tackle the influx of migrants.

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