Madrid police given quotas for Illegalimmigrant hunt-downs
18 February 2007
Police in Madrid has been given "quantitative targets" of illegal migrant arrests to be met on a weekly basis and have been authorized to hunt outside their own districts if the illegal population is under target, according to a leak of an internal memo for the police force.
Priority is to be given to arresting Moroccans, rather than Bolivians, since North Africans can be sent home quickly and cheaply.
Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, interior minister, reacting to the leak, confirmed the targets but clarified that the police worked strictly within the law. He denied reports that immigrants had been detained at the gates of schools where they were picking up their children.
Alfredo Perdiguero, secretary-general of the Federal Police Union, complained in a radio interview that officers were pressed to produce favourable statistics for police headquarters and were rewarded with days off.
The draconian measure – and the relatively mild reaction from politicians so far – are signs of growing concern in Spain over high unemployment and the strains placed on public services by large numbers of sin papeles (those without papers) from Africa and Latin America.
With some 5m legal and illegal foreigners in a total population of 46m, Spain has the highest proportion of immigrant residents among European Union states.
Many migrants came to work as builders, farmworkers and waiters during the years of rapid economic growth. But Spain is now in recession, unemployment has soared to more than 3.3m and immigrants are losing jobs at twice the rate of Spaniards, prompting fears that they will turn to crime.
Milagros Hernández, a United Left party politician, called the quota system "institutionalised racism".