South American leaders meeting in Argentina have slammed European Union plans to incarcerate illegal immigrants for up to 18 months. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he might stop selling oil to European countries. Others said it was ‘inadmissible xenophobia’ given how Latin America has always welcomed European immigrants.
“People have been sent back from Europe practically naked,” raged Bolivian President Evo Morales. “In the past, Europeans coveted our resources, took over our land, exploited our brothers, and now they approve this ‘send back’ directive.’”
Morales said EU attempts to criminalise immigration amounted to “a directive of shame.”
Hugo Chavez said: “Civilised Europe has opened the door to legalised barbarity. We should put together possible answers and ask the European government to do some thinking about it.”
Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have immigrated to Europe in recent years in search of jobs. The European Commission estimates there are up to eight million illegal immigrants living in the EU.
It is that influx which it is trying to tackle, by threatening people with detention and no right to return to Europe for at least five years.