Ben Harding, Reuters, May 31, 2006
Spain’s long tolerant attitude to immigration seems to be hardening amid constant news of African boat people and opposition charges leaky borders have led to a rise in violent crime.
A poll conducted for Monday’s El Mundo newspaper showed 70% of Spaniards think the country has too many migrants, 10 percentage points more than a similar poll just five months ago.
The poll showed 70% also thought the government’s amnesty for about 600,000 illegal immigrants last year had prompted a five-fold increase in the number of Africans landing illegally in the Canary Islands.
Spain’s Socialist government is now struggling to contain this flow of rickety wooden vessels, sending more patrol boats to the Canaries and demanding help from Brussels.
It has also moved more police to Catalonia, where officials blame an explosion in violent burglaries on east European gangs. Kidnappings in Madrid have also surged.
One Spanish newspaper headline declared: “30% of killings and injuries the work of foreign criminals”, and numerous stories have detailed how homeowners have been bound and slashed with knives to force them to give up valuables.
The conservative Popular Party (PP) has accused the government of losing control of Spain’s borders and unleashing a crime wave, leading one Socialist to liken PP secretary-general Angel Acebes to French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.
But on Monday Acebes renewed his attack.
“Spain is paying the price for immigration that is uncontrolled and disorganised,” he said.