Immigration an issue in Spanish election
04/03 19:55 CET
For the first time in Spain's electoral history, immigration has become a campaign issue. Over recent years the number of immigrants has risen steadily, with the majority from Morocco, Latin America and eastern Europe.
Immigrants now make up 10 per cent of Spain's population – more than four million people in 2006.
Between 2004 and 2007, 40 per cent of all the new jobs in the European Union were created in Spain.
In 2005, the Socialist government made between 600,000 and 700,000 illegal workers legal. It was a move demanded by employers, according to the Employment Minister, who estimated there were a million clandestine workers when the PSOE came to power in 2004.
The measure will also boost government coffers, says Employment Minister Jesus Caldera:
“It is undoubtedly the emergence of the biggest underground economy in Europe in the past 40 or 50 years.”
However the opposition denounced the mass move, saying it would only attract more illegal immigrants.
And with the approach of legislative elections, the PP has gone on the warpath. Leader Mariano Rajoy:
“We must fight tough against illegal immigration. And I am going to say something else. We must expel foreigners who commit a crime in Spain.”
The conservative Popular Party has suggested that immigrants from outside the European Union should sign a contract agreeing to respect the laws and customs of Spain. They have also floated the idea of restrictions over wearing the Islamic veil.
For the Socialists it is not that simple.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba:
“We should be told if these Spanish customs are the the customs of Mr Rajoy or me for example: are they the customs of grand-parents, of parents, of teenagers. Are they the customs of cardinals or agnostics.”