BALEARIC immigration offices have been swamped by an “avalanche” of applications for residency permits over the past two weeks ahead of the partial amnesty on hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants nationwide coming into force next month.

At the end of December, the Spanish government announced that it is offering thousands of illegal immigrants a fresh start in a bid to allow officials to keep better tabs on foreign residents in Spain in the wake of the March 11 bombings in Madrid. Around 800'000 foreigners, mostly North African and Latin American, are estimated to be living in Spain without legal residency or work permits.

Governor general of the Balearics, Ramón Socías, said yesterday that, in anticipation of the amnesty coming into force, a large number of immigrants in the Balearics have already submitted their applications to be processed.

Socias, who has already taken steps to boost manpower and resources in immigration offices, has brought the next Immigration Committee meeting forward to January 25 in order to discuss what further action can be taken to speed up the process and reduce problems next month.

He said there are an estimated 30'000 foreigners living in the Balearics without the necessary documentation. 10'000 foreigners are alreday in the process of being processed but it is the remaining 20'000 who are expected to take advantage of the partial amnesty and will crate a very heavy work load for immigration office staff.