by Staff Reporter
THE Balearic government will provide the island councils and town and village councils with 1.7 million euros over the next 12 months, to finance its newly approved plan for attending to the needs of the growing immigrant population.

Minister Rosa Puig revealed details of the far-ranging plan yesterday. It will run until the year 2009 and covers various programmes to favour integration in education, work, housing, health and social services.

Its chief purpose is to expand and improve social welfare schemes for immigrants, who now number around 150'000 persons.
In addition to the aid to the island and town and village councils, the government will offer different services via the ministries of education, labour, health and the presidency.

The plan has been adapted to the change in the profile of immigrants noted over the past few years, and it is aimed chiefly at non-European Union families which settle in the islands.

Puig said that the government wants to help young immigrants who have a job and children and who require certain servcices, although she added it would also help other groups, such as young people with no family support.

Puig said that the immigrants for whom the plan has been designed have problems and specific social characteristics, and need services which will help them integrate.

There will be a specific programme of loans to help women and a mediator will be appointed to act as intermediary between the administration and the immigrants.

The government will also promote investment in amenities in areas where there are a lot of immigrants, to prevent social isolation, and will train people so that when they return home, they can collaborate in development schemes.

The Federation of Immigrant Associations has criticised the plan, saying that it is aimed only at immigrants who are here legally and “forgets” about the foreign population here without papers.

But Puig said that although most of the measures are aimed at immigrants who are here legally, the advisory services and the mediator will be at the disposal of anyone who requires them.