Spanish Party Slams Immigrant Offenders

Spanish party slams immigrant offenders

Web posted at: 2/10/2008 0:42:58
Source ::: REUTERS

MADRID Spain's conservative opposition kept up its hard line on immigration yesterday, four weeks before a general election, vowing to throw out any foreigners who commit crimes on Spanish soil.

The centre-right Partido Popular (PP) has raised its rhetoric on immigration over the last week, saying it wants to restrict the use of the Islamic veil and make sure immigrants speak Spanish and respect the laws and customs of the country.

“We must expel from Spain those people who commit crimes in Spain and come from abroad,” PP leader Mariano Rajoy told a cheering crowd as he presented his manifesto for the March 9 election.

The policy echoes moves by Italy last year to deport foreigners considered dangerous, quickly and without trial.

The PP has suggested setting up a points system that would give priority to potential immigrants who speak Spanish and have skills needed to fill jobs. Rajoy wants a policy to make sure they then integrate successfully.

“If we don't do this, we will inevitably head towards the creation of ghettos, of countries within our country, which would be the worst possible thing we could do, of which we'd repent for the rest of our lives,” he said.

The governing Socialist party has brushed off the PP's sudden decision to focus so much of their election campaign on immigration, saying the proposals have “a whiff of xenophobia” and address non-existent problems.

“Immigration cannot give way to a debate about exclusion and a lack of respect for our differences because that breathes life into the worst passions that destroy the way we live together,” Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said yesterday.

Spain's immigrant population has grown from almost zero to about 10 percent in the last decade. But while immigration rated among Spaniards' top concerns when dozens of boatloads of immigrants washed up on the Canary Islands in 2006, they are now more worried about the economy.

Analysts have said the PP's turn on immigration is a lure for working class voters worried that foreigners will take their lower-paid jobs and drag on public services.