Staff Reporter

THE Balearic government yesterday defended the setting up of an internment centre for foreigners in the islands, although first of all, priority had to be given to “clarifying” what policy the central government plans to apply on immigration.

Rosa Estaras, the deputy leader of the Balearic government, said that the central government's actions in this field were “contradictory.” However, she added that the rescue on Monday of nine immigrants whose boat went adrift off Portocolom was an isolated incident compared to what is happening in the Canary Islands.

She said that Southern Spain and the Canary Islands were the regions where the need to build internment centres was the most urgent, adding that having the means to tackle irregular immigration “would be very positive.” She said that this type of situation should be tackled “in a serious way” through policies agreed with the European Union to fight irregular immigration, and she criticised the central government for its management of the problem.

She claimed that its policies on immigration had been “very contradictory,” based on “papers for everyone,” which had generated “an emergency situation along the Spanish coast.” Immigration policies should instead be aimed at “increasing border controls” and signing agreements with the countries of origin of the immigrants, she maintained.

However, she went on, up to now the criteria of the Spanish government had been just the opposite and was based on “mass regularisation” which had been carried out “without consulting its European partners.” Estarás said that the next meeting of Spanish regional leaders on January 11, will tackle immigration, which had to be “orderly in order to preserve the immigrants' dignity.” In her opinion, the arrival of boat loads of immigrants on the Spanish coasts shows that immigration “is one of the most important matters on the European agenda.” The nine immigrants rescued off Majorca will be taken to an internment centre on the Peninsula, probably in Valencia, although the date has not been confirmed. There is no such holding facility in the Balearics at the moment.

This is the first time that a boat with illegal immigrants has reached the Majorcan coast. Three Algerians were arrested in Minorca on September 29, after they had arrived on a small fishing boat.

A police spokesman said that the immigrants, who have not been identified as they carried no papers but are believed to be Algerian, said that they would probably be transferred to Valencia, and will then be returned to their own country.

An expulsion order will not be necessary as they were rescued at sea and did not enter the country.
They spent the night after their rescue in the holding cells at the National Police station in Palma, and are reported to be in good physical condition.

They told police that they had been adrift for three days after their fuel ran out, before sending an SOS.
Rosa Estarás also spoke about the ETA bomb attack at Barajas airport in Madrid, which “shows that the terrorist group has never abandoned violence.”


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