Spain proposes tougher immigration laws
Spain proposed changes to immigration laws yesterday to limit an influx of foreigners as it faces recession and the highest unemployment rate in the European Union.
The measures, which must be approved by Parliament, would allow police to hold illegal immigrants for up to 60 days pending deportation and make it harder for foreigners to bring relatives over to live in Spain.
"In our difficult current situation, decisions have been taken to adapt immigration levels to the labour market," Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho told a news conference following a Cabinet meeting on the reform.
Nearly five million immigrants have settled in Spain during the past decade, more than in any other European country, drawn by a construction boom that has collapsed in the global financial crisis.
With unemployment expected to end the year at 13 per cent and rise as high as 20 per cent by 2010, Prime Minister Josè Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government says there are not enough jobs for immigrants who make up 11 per cent of the population.
The proposed reforms would impose higher fines for employers recruiting foreigners who do not have proper legal papers, but expand civil rights for foreigners already living legally or illegally in Spain.
Before his re-election this year, Mr Zapatero heaped praise on immigrants and said they were responsible for half the rapid economic growth that has reduced unemployment among Spaniards.
But this week the government started a campaign featuring posters of an immigrant and the caption "Have you thought of going back?"
Immigrants are finding it harder to secure jobs as layoffs force Spaniards to seek lower-paid work previously done by foreigners, such as fruit picking, construction and waiting on tables.
Among other incentives the government has offered to pay jobless immigrants unemployment benefit in their home countries and part of the cost of their journey home.