Ministers from Mediterranean EU countries meeting in Madrid have done a little to clear the air of mutual mistrust over illegal migration across maritime borders.
French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy even had kind words to say for his Spanish counterpart’s tough line on sending irregular entrants back home.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba made clear Madrid would discourage would-be illegal immigrants — and the traffickers who expoit them. He said: “My experience and my government’s experience is that repatriations are crucial because when the mafias are telling them ‘if you arrive in Spain, you stay in Spain and in Europe’, the repatriations send another message which is: ‘your arrival in Spain is not a guarantee of your staying’.”
Madrid amnestied some half a million illegals last year but now promises to repatriate anyone without proper documents.
The Frenchman said he applauded the Spaniards’ courage: “Twice they indicated that a European and national immigration policy depended on the effectiveness of repatriations; I’ll sign that with both hands.”
He accepted, however, that of the estimated seven-to-twelve million illegal foreign residents in the EU not all could be expelled.
Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Slovenia also called for a increase boost for the bloc’s external border control agency Frontex, to protect Europe’s most vulnerable areas.