Spain, Italy: Two tactics for tackling illegal immigration
Italy is using state of emergency powers, while Spain has introduced measures that include paying jobless immigrants to go home.
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This discrimination has been fed by media headlines such as "Invasion of the Nomads." And it has trickled down in other ways as well. In July, the rightwing Northern League party presented a proposal in one region that would ban "kebab shops" and Chinese restaurants from city centers because they were "incompatible with the historical context." Vigilante groups in southern Italy have set fire to Roma enclaves and attacked their inhabitants.Skip to next paragraph
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Spain: Balancing rights, crackdown
In Spain, where legal immigrants alone make up nearly 9 percent of the population, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero surprised many at the start of his second term this spring by directing an about-face of his administration's previously lenient immigration policies.
In June, just three years after authorizing a mass legalization of 750,000 undocumented workers, Mr. Zapatero expressed support for the EU's Return Directive – a policy that allows member states to hold undocumented migrants, including minors, for up to 18 months, and, if deported, bans them from returning.
Faced with a 10.7 percent unemployment rate, Zapatero's new labor minister has announced a plan that would pay jobless immigrants to return to their home countries. The Catalan regional government, among the most progressive in Spain, has authorized a program that would temporarily segregate newly arrived immigrant children from non-European countries in special schools designed to better prepare them for integration into the regular educational system. The government is expending greater resources on preventing migrant-laden boats from reaching Spanish shores, and more frequently deporting those who do land.
Zapatero's immigration policy has been criticized by immigrants-rights organizations. Antonio Abad, secretary-general of the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees (CEAR), points out, for example, that by increasing the monitoring of the Moroccan and Mauritanian coasts, Spanish authorities have compelled sub-Saharan migrants to begin their sea journey from points farther south, endangering themselves even further. "It takes the people who need the most protection and makes things even harder for them," he says. He also criticizes Zapatero's support for the Return Directive. "When you limit one person's rights, you limit all of society," he adds.
Yet Zapatero has balanced these more rigid policies with other kinds of efforts. He appointed the first immigrant to his cabinet in April and has promised to extend the vote to legal immigrants by the end of this term. Those efforts, say Abad, make a difference. "On the positive side, we can see that the government has a strategy for integration.... It's totally different from the racist measures you see in Italy."