- Title: SPAIN: Spanish opposition vows to expel foreign criminals
- Date: 11th February 2008
- Summary: (EU) MADRID, SPAIN (FILE) (REUTERS) TWO WOMEN WEARING HEADSCARVES WALKING ALONG STREET IN THE MUSLIM NEIGHBOURHOOD OF LAVAPIES SPANISH WOMEN SITTING ON A PARK BENCH
- Embargoed: 26th February 2008 12:00
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Reuters ID: LVA3XANSD19ELV0YO5Z7J25P07H8
- Story Text: "Immigrants who commit crime in Spain must be expelled", says Spanish conservative Popular Party leader as he presents election manifesto for March 9 presidential election that includes restrictions to the use of Islamic veil. Prime Minister Zapatero says such plan "breathes life into the worst passions." Immigrants express mixed opinions about expulsions as Moroccan immigration describes plan as "barbaric" for Muslim girls.
Spain's conservative opposition kept up its hard line on immigration on Saturday (February 9), four weeks before a general election, vowing to throw out any foreigners who committed crimes on Spanish soil.
The centre-right Partido Popular (PP) has upped 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 mirrors steps taken 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, that is the worst favour that we could do to Spaniards and to people who come from abroad 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 demands integration, it 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 on Saturday.
Spain's immigrant population has grown from almost zero to about 10 percent in the last decade but while it rated among Spaniards' top concerns when dozens of boat loads 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.
After listening to the PP's announcements, immigrants have mixed feelings.
"He (Rajoy) should be a little careful because not all the people from abroad come here to do bad things, there are bad people everywhere,"
Maria Mattos from the Dominican Republic told Reuters.
For Winston, who came arrived in Spain seven years ago after perilous trip in a long boat from Nigeria the PP's plan has nothing new.
"It is not a new idea, they have been sending people home, so it is not a new idea now. With different governments, with different regimes we, the immigrants, have seen a lot of that. So that's why if you are here, you try to be very careful with what you do so you don't get into problem,"
Although it was not mentioned during Saturday's speech, restrictions to the use of Islamic veil are included in the Popular Party's plan. For Anass Merabet, a member of the Spanish Federation of Immigrants, the measure is "barbaric."
"I wonder whether Rajoy will also prohibit girls to wear the cross or a punk symbol or to wear low waist trousers in order to protect them from the media influence or their parents, etc," he told Reuters.
Islamic headscarves have been banned in state schools in France, and the issue has been debated in several other European countries, including Britain and the Netherlands.
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