Spanish minister of the interior Angel Acebes will present Operation Ulysses, the first European initiative to combat illegal immigration, in Palma today. Taking part in the operation will be Guardia Civil patrol boats as well as vessels from France, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Italy in what has been described as “a pioneer effort”. Representatives of Greece, Norway, Holland, Germany, Poland and Austria will take part in the operation as observers. Its objective, according to a communique from the ministry, is “to fight against illegal immigration in the Western Mediterranean in this first experimental stage,” adding that it is a forerunner to the setting up of a European Frontier Police Force. The second stage of the operation, in spring, will take place in the Atlantic, on the maritime frontier of the Canary Islands. The ministry announcement came one day after more than 350 immigrants marched through the streets of Palma, protesting against the law on foreigners which came into force a year ago. They read a manifesto calling for the bill to be repealed and asked the Balearic government to set up an integral plan for immigrants. Among those taking part was Balearic labour minister Miquel Rosselló, who said that most of the demands of the marchers were on the way to being introduced. He also expressed his disagreement with the law, saying that if immigrants “work for our economy, they must have the same rights as other citizens.” And yesterday, the USO union claimed that thousands of immigrants could be affected by what they called the “indiscriminate refusal” of work and resident permits by the government representative's office to foreigners seeking acceptance and who had applied in 2000 and 2001, before the “zero contingent” concept was introduced. A union spokesman said that they had heard of ten cases of refusal within the last 24 hours and claimed that there were up to 15'000 cases waiting to be resolved. The union said it was “unfair“ to justify these refusals by alleging that there are enough people on the unemployment lists to fill the jobs, adding that it suspects that this practice is a way “of applying the new law on foreigners retrospectively.”

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