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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

EU says 30,000 waiting in N.Africa to enter bloc

October 12, 2005

By Marie-Louise Moller

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – Thousands more illegal migrants are
heading for Spain’s north African enclaves, whose razor-wire
borders hundreds have already stormed to get into the European
Union, the bloc said on Wednesday.

The EU’s top immigration official said the problem of
African migrants gate-crashing the outposts of Melilla and
Ceuta or finding other ways to reach Europe was enormous, and
it was time to act.

In recent weeks, hundreds of migrants have tried to storm
the protected borders from Morocco to the Mediterranean coast
enclaves. At least 11 have died but hundreds have got across.

“Intelligence suggests that around 20,000 immigrants are
waiting in Algeria ready to begin their journey to Morocco and
then Ceuta and Melilla with another 10,000 already waiting in
Morocco,” Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini
told EU ministers according to a copy of his speech notes.

“This is a clear indication of the mounting migration
pressure on Morocco and Europe. There is no indication that the
present high migratory pressure … will decrease in the short
term,” he told justice and interior ministers of member states.

He said the 25-nation bloc and Morocco should step up
border cooperation as well as their fight against trafficking
in people, and the EU should help Rabat train border guards.

Frattini said the bloc should also increase cooperation
with sub-Saharan African states where most of the migrants come
from.

ENORMOUS PROBLEMS

“The problems we are facing are enormous and it will take a
lot of time and effort to bring the situation under control. I
do however think the time has come to act,” he said.

Spain has asked for EU help with the problems at its
enclaves. The executive European Commission sent experts there
last week to assess the situation.

Some EU states say Madrid has itself in part to blame for
the massive influx of migrants because of Spain’s policy of
offering illegal immigrants amnesties.

In February, Madrid introduced a three-month amnesty for
illegal immigrants as part of a drive to lift them out of the
shadow economy, give them rights and make them pay taxes.

Around 700,000 people took advantage of the scheme which
Spain said helped improve regulation of immigration in a
country which is also a European gateway for many Latin
Americans.

“It is not sustainable if Spain continues to do this,
because it will become a magnet,” the Danish Minister for
Refugees, Immigrants and Integration, Rikke Hvilshoj, told
reporters, echoing comments made by German Interior Minister
Otto Schily.

Under pressure from Spain, Morocco has started to send
illegal migrants home to countries further south, despite U.N.
criticism.

Spain has deported 70 migrants to Morocco, even though that
may not be their home, in a move human rights groups denounced.

The crisis at Ceuta and Melilla and the southern Italian
island of Lampedusa, which is also an arrival point for many
illegal immigrants, highlights the gap in wealth between poor
countries in sub-Saharan Africa and prosperous European states.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees urged the EU to
take the lead in improving living conditions for the world’s
poor by engaging in conflict prevention, improving trade links
and good governance in the countries affected by poverty.

“Everybody wants to be at home and people will only leave
home when they have no conditions to live at home with a
minimum of dignity and minimum possibilities to give hope to
their families,” Antonio Guterres told reporters after the
meeting.