Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Aug 16 14:58:21 UTC 2007

Published August 13th, 2007 Spain News , Top Stories

The Spanish cruiseship "Jules Verne" rescued 13 immigrants from the
sea near Malta, who were allowed to disembark on th eisland - the
third such incident in recent weeks.
Last year's headlines were dominated by illegal immigrants landing in
record numbers in the Canary Islands, but just the opposite is
happening this year.

The immigrants are still arriving, but in much smaller numbers, and
Labour Minister Jesus Calderon believes this is due to a programme
being promoted by the Spanish and Senegalese governments. The
objective is to bring hundreds of workers to Spain this year with
renewable one-year visas and jobs. Workers on one-year permits may
have their contracts extended, at which point they have the right to
bring over their immediate family. By raising the possibility of
reaching Spain legally, it is hoped that young Africans will be
dissuaded from throwing themselves on the mercy of the Atlantic.

Spain was strongly criticised by the rest of the EU countries two
years ago when it allowed about 600,000 illegal immigrants to sort out
their papers. But the country's new African initiative is winning
nothing but praise for José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's government and
has also won the support of the business community.

Several companies are in the process of hiring people in Dakar,
Senegal's capital, to come to work in Spain for a year, and
potentially longer. Those companies include McDonald's; Carrefour, a
French retailer; and Vips, a Spanish convenience store chain. They are
under no illusion that the programme will fix Europe's migration
problem. A spokesman for Vips, which has already hired 25 people from
Senegal and is in the process of hiring 40 more, said: "When you
measure the volume of people we can hire against the needs of their
countries, it's a drop in the ocean. But we just have to keep working,
drop by drop."

A United Nations spokesman has described the programme as "advanced
thinking in terms of migration policy" and "trailblazing."

And it seems to be bearing fruit. This year, about 6,000 migrants
landed in the Canaries in the first seven months, compared to 13,000
in the same period last year. Officials and emergency workers based in
the Canaries have attributed the decline to better maritime
surveillance and cooperation from countries like Senegal, as well as
rougher seas. Last week, Minister Caldera signed an agreement with
Gambia to invest $1.3 million to train Gambians who could be recruited
to work in Spain. In July, he signed similar agreements with Mali and

Spain is not reaching out to African immigrants just for humanitarian
reasons. Rapid economic growth has forced companies to look abroad to
cover a dearth of local labour and thousands of migrants are hired
from Eastern Europe, Morocco and Latin America each year to pick
strawberries, wait tables and work in the construction sector.

A labour relations experts said there are parts of Spain where it is
impossible to find qualified workers. He said Senegalese workers on
the whole were well trained, with strong language skills and had "a
huge will to work."
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