Spain Arrests 8000 Moroccan Illegal Immigrants
More than 7,830 people were arrested trying to enter Spain illegally during the first half of the year, Moroccan media reported. The number is significantly higher than for the first six months of 1999, when Morocco and Spain stopped 3,570 undocumented travelers.
Spain's immigration office predicts that this year will shatter records for the number of illegal immigrants there. The number is expected to reach 10,000 by the end of 2000. The largest number of illegal immigrants, nearly 1,200, were arrested between last May and July. The number of people trying to emigrate without papers increases in the summer, when the waters of the 14-km Gibraltar Strait are calmer, making it easier for small boats to complete the journey from Morocco to Spain.
Hundreds of Moroccans, driven by poverty and need to fine work, try to migrate to Spain in quest of a better life. They usually pay fees of between $2,000 and $4,000 to smugglers. Those who manage to get there look for a job to obtain a legal residence permit in the Iberian country, while others are arrested by the coast guard, repatriated and tried for illegal immigration. The least lucky drown in the strait.
Those illegal immigrants are known in Morocco as "Harragas,'' meaning those who burn their identity papers before endangering their lives to start a new in Europe.
People from sub-Saharan Africa see Morocco as a bridge that can take them there. Hundreds of them live without papers in the Moroccan northern city of Tangiers, the closest African point to Europe. From there, they plan to start their trip towards a better future.
Last week, the Moroccan authorities arrested 58 people from Senegal, Nigeria and Sierra Leone who were preparing to embark on the journey. The group will stand trial and likely be deported to their native countries.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)