The Spanish Government intends to further modify the immigration laws in Spain and has announced that one of the measures it wants to include in the reform is the legalisation of immigrants who are illegally employed, including agricultural workers (mainly seasonal fruit and veg pickers) and women working as cleaners or child-carers in many Spanish homes. It is much more common to employ domestic staff in Spain than in other European countries and literally thousands of illegal immigrants find it relatively easy to find employment cleaning houses or looking after children while parents work. The Socialist government hopes that by legalising the situation of these workers, they will reduce illegal employment because for the first time, employers will have to give their employees a legal contract, a legal wage, and will have to pay their seguridad social (national health payments).
The Spanish Defence Minister also announced new government policies regarding boats ferrying immigrants to Spain from the North African coast which until now have been turned back when intercepted by Spanish authorities.
The whole illegal Africa to Europe ferry trade is a dirty business, with thousands of Africans paying ridiculously high sums of money to ruthless owners of flimsy vessels who tend to overcrowd their boats and enter Spanish waters off the coasts of the Canary Islands, Cadiz or Gibraltar. Each year Spanish police turn back boats packed with African immigrants, or rescue from the sea hundreds of Africans who have been ordered by the boat owner to jump off the boat and to swim the rest of the way and simply do not have the strength to continue. Most of them are returned to their country. Bodies are often washed up onto the beaches of Spain of Africans who have drowned in their attempt to reach the shore.
The announcement made by the Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono last week that boats will no longer be intercepted by Spanish navy boats unless they request help, has been met with fierce criticism from the PP opposition party who have said the new policies are a clear example of Spain stepping out of line with European Union immigration policies.
The Socialist government however say that the new policies are an attempt to break the illegal traffic and illegal employment of immigrants and to tackle a situation which the previous government was unable to solve. The proposal will be explained to the Spanish parliament this week in what promises to be a very heated debate.