THE Spanish government is dumping African immigrants across mainland Spain, regional governments and the opposition say, as it struggles to cope with record numbers of boats arriving in the Canary Islands. However, the Balearic government and the central government representative have denied that any have arrived here, pointing out that there is no holding centre in the Balearics. The Partido Popular (PP) opposition said a disproportionate number of immigrants were sent to regions it governs, while Catalonia's socialist government said the Interior Ministry had flown an unannounced planeload of immigrants to Barcelona. More than 18'000 immigrants have landed on the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa this year so far -almost four times the whole of 2005. Reception camps are full to bursting, leading the government to fly thousands more to the mainland. Spain cannot legally return an immigrant to a country if it has no repatriation treaty or if it cannot determine their nationality, so after the maximum 40-day holding period immigrants are typically handed an expulsion order and turfed onto the street. Some 11'000 immigrants have been scattered throughout Spain so far this year, according to newspaper El Mundo, a traditional government critic, almost triple last year's figure. “Immigrants without papers are freely moving around Spain and it is creating a problem on an incalculable scale,” PP economy spokesman Miguel Arias Canete said. The Interior Ministry declined to estimate how many immigrants would be transferred to the mainland this year, but it denied targeting PP areas. “It's incorrect. Three of the internment centres are in socialist regions, three in regions controlled by the PP,” said a government spokesman.

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