Pedro Sanchez set to strike migration deal with Joe Biden to welcome Latin American refugees

President Joe Biden and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez meet at the Palace of Moncloa in Madrid, June 28, 2022.
President Joe Biden and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez meet at the Palace of Moncloa in Madrid, June 28, 2022. Copyright AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Copyright AP Photo/Susan Walsh
By Graham Keeley
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Asylum seekers from Latin America will be able to apply to go to Canada, Spain and the US in migrant processing centres set up in their home countries.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is on Friday due to hold talks with US President Joe Biden to collaborate on a deal over migration and to seek a united front over the war in Ukraine.

Along with Canada, the US will seek to finalise a deal with Spain over migration hubs in Latin America so migrants can apply from their own countries to flee poverty and violence.

Spain and Canada badly need labour and have signalled they are willing to accept migrants from Latin America as well as other countries in a move that will ease pressure on the US which faces an influx of migrants along its border with Mexico.

The war between Russia and Ukraine will also loom large over the talks in the White House.

Spain will assume the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union in July and will lead the EU in efforts to find peace.

The Biden administration has ended pandemic controls along its border with Mexico -known as Title 42 – and unveiled new immigration measures which are expected to change how migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border.

While these efforts are designed to still crack down on illegal crossings, they will also open legal ways for migrants to apply for asylum online in their own countries, instead of making the often-deadly journey to the border.

At present, those caught trying to cross the US border illegally cannot return for five years and they face criminal prosecution.

A series of migrant processing centres have been set up in Colombia and Guatemala but are not yet operational. Up to 100 others will be set up in other countries where migrants can apply to come to Canada, Spain and the US.

For the White House, persuading Spain and Canada to take in migrants will be a political victory as the Biden administration views the migration crisis facing the Americas as a global problem that needs a global solution - much like the refugee crises that have impacted Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine in recent years.

The US has increasingly seen migrants arrive at its Southern border who are from China, Ukraine, Haiti, Russia and other nations far from Latin America. Family groups and children traveling alone make up an increasingly bigger share of these migrants.

Thirty years ago, by contrast, illegal crossings were almost always single adults from Mexico who were easily returned back over the border.

Carlota García Encina, a specialist in US-Spanish relations at the Real Elcano Institute, a Madrid-based think-tank, said the migration deal was important for both the US and Spain.

“The US sees the problem of migration as a global problem so it is important that other countries like Spain and Canada share its view on this,” she told Euronews.

“For Spain it is a change for bilateral cooperation with the US. Normally, it deals with Washington through Brussels.”

Spain, like many other nations, needs workers, and it will be able to choose migrants who have skills needed in the country.

Madrid said the pathway will only apply to those who have already received international protection status.

That means the migrants it accepts will need to be considered refugees and will be treated in much the same way that Syrian asylum seekers, coming via Turkey, have been treated by Spain.

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One of the worst hit countries by the pandemic, Spain has struggled to find workers to fill posts in the key tourism, construction, agriculture and technology sectors as its economy recovers.

Last year, Jose Luis Escriva, Spain’s social security and migration minister, said Madrid planned to relax work permit rules for foreigners.

Sánchez is expected to discuss with Biden his recent talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, both of whom have put forward ideas to end the conflict in Ukraine.

The Spanish leader is expected to urge Biden to consider the views of other countries outside Europe on the best way to end the war.

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