IMMIGRATION HOT TOPIC AS ELECTION GAP CLOSES

Two recent surveys indicate that the main opposition party, the Partido Popular, is closing the gap with the governing Socialist Party (PSOE), from being 3.8% ten days ago to 3.2% at the end of last week.

This increases Socialist fears of a technical draw, which means that the next government could be formed by the party that can come up with the most parliamentary allies. In that case, the PSOE would still be able to form a government because it has most of the nationalist parties on its side, as well as the Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left). The PP took the election battle into the field of immigration last week when its candidate, Mariano Rajoy, announced that if he wins, he intends to introduce “a contract of integration” which all non-EU immigrants would have to sign on arrival in Spain or, in the case of those who are already here, when their residency permit comes up for renewal. Sr Rajoy said he would create a visa based on points which would favour South Americans and qualified non-EU foreigners. He said immigrants involved in any crime would be expelled, which means that some 76,000 immigrants already here face the threat of expulsion. Sr Rajoy also said he would change the Gender Equality Law to establish as a general principle banning the use of any element that are a manifestation of women’s submission to men. He said this would banning the use of headscarves by Moslem girls in schools. He said this ban would not be imposed in Ceuta and Melilla where Moslems make up the majority of the population. IU leader Gaspar Llamazares immediately wanted to know if Sr Rajoy would extend the ban to nuns’ headware. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba described the plan as a “smokescreen that stank of xenophobia”, and the president of the National Ecuadorian Federation, Santiago Morales, said “This type of criteria has been developed only in Nazi Germany and under apartheid in South Africa”. In response, some Spanish newspapers published comments made by the Iranian Ambassador Seyed Davoud M. Salehi at a press conference in Madrid last week in defence of convicted thieves having their hands cut off. And last Wednesday, a 22-year-old youth was executed for repeatedly drinking alcohol. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero apologised to the immigrant community last Friday on behalf of his government and the Spanish people for what he called the Partido Popular’s “discriminatory offences”.

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