Staff Reporter
THE Immigrants' Advisory Office in the Balearics, run by a workers' union (USO), is closing its doors today, leaving some 3'000 foreigners on the Islands without their “help” centre. The closure is due specifically to the fact that in October last year, the present regional government cut the advice service's 60 million euro annual grant. The Union Works Committee announced yesterday that 25 members of staff who have been employed full-time in running the advisory service are to lose their jobs. Closure will affect the three offices based on Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza, although the one on Ibiza is to remain open for some weeks to come. The office in Manacor stopped offering assistance to foreigners 5 months ago. The Immigration Advisory Service has been functioning for a total of four years. Between October 2002 and October 2003, the organisation gave assistance to 2'052 people; 1'539 on Majorca, 290 on Minorca and 223 on Ibiza. Clients, who generally have a minimum of secondary school education, have come mainly from Ecuador (41%), Nigeria (15%), Colombia (12.6%), Argentina (5.3%) and Morocco (3.8%). Secretary of USO's “Action” league, Jaume Grimalt, summed up the situation. He said that these 3'000 people who annually received help from the Union services, will now no longer be assessed, amongst other things, on what work is available to them on the Islands taking into account their individual skills. Other areas of advice and assistance were valued by the immigrant population in the processing and renewal of work and residents' permits, as well as authority to return to their country of origin. “We are concerned about the lack of sensitivity on the part of the Balearic government”, said Grimalt, who referred to the grant-cutting policy as constituting an attack on Social Services. He furthered that it was “a retrograde step” in respect of measures that had been set up to help “strangers on the shore” over the last few years. Since October, the Foreigners' Advisory service has been running with Union funds. Grimalt signalled that USO has had several meetings with the regional Ministry of Employment but on the issue of subsidy, all has been to no avail. “We haven't been trusted with an explanation”, he said. The Union aims to continue assisting immigrants in need of advice through other means. The syndicates have not discounted organising public protest against government immigration policy.

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