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Immigration, a pending issue for the Government

Immigration, a pending issue for the Government

“For me, personally, having saved the lives of 630 people makes me think that it is worth dedicating yourself to politics.” Four years have passed since Pedro Sánchez left those words in writing after having received the Aquarius ship that was looking for a port due to the refusal of Italy and Malta to welcome the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. In those four years, migratory flows have increased, exerting greater pressure on the southern border of Spain, and with a recent agreement with Morocco to reinforce control, the position of the socialist leader on immigration has taken a 180-degree turn . What was sold as a flag of the incoming government, after the motion of censure against Mariano Rajoy, whose cabinet came to withdraw health care from people without papers.

In this time there have been hot returns, even of minors, such as those that the PSOE criticized and in the last week the Prime Minister has avoided condemning the police brutality that has ended the lives of 37 people at the Melilla fence. What began as his first great gesture – added to the return of universal health care – has become the pending issue of his Government and is one of the sources of conflict with United We Can and the rest of the left-wing allies .

Barely a year after the symbolic reception of the Aquarius, the Government prohibited the humanitarian ship Open Arms from leaving the port under threat of fines of up to 901,000 euros. Sources familiar with that decision assure that the NGO rescued lives in the Mediterranean and went directly to Spanish ports, which is its origin, and not to the closest ones, which is what the regulations establish, and they attribute its blockade to that reason. At that time, an increase in migratory flows was already taking place in the south until it became what they define as a “brutal crisis” that has had peaks such as the massive arrival in the Canary Islands that led to overcrowding in Arguineguín in 2020.

The increase in migratory flows then even caused tensions in the single-color government. “The Ministry of the Interior complained that Salvamento Marítimo were carriers of immigrants,” says a source consulted, who explains that it was then decided that the command would fall on the Civil Guard, which is the one that now receives the notices. On the other hand, efforts were focused on asking the EU and Morocco for greater collaboration, especially in its waters. Government sources point out that control by the Alawite kingdom substantially improved.

However, Morocco is aware that Spain needs it as a brake, as it demonstrated a year ago by using it against the Government after the reception of the Polisario Front leader, Brahim Galli, by allowing some 10,000 people to enter Ceuta in a matter of hours. Now that Sánchez has restored relations with Mohamed VI, at the cost of a historic shift in the position on the Sahara, his speech is more complicated for him. “I am empathetic and I deeply regret the death of people on the Spanish border and I also take responsibility for the suffering of their families (…). I believe that we must also exercise empathy with the State Security Forces and Bodies, with the citizens of Ceuta and Melilla, who have the same right as you and I, who live in Madrid, to live in peace and , without a doubt, also an exercise of empathy with a Moroccan Gendarmerie that worked hard, also with the State Security Forces and Bodies in Spain, to try to avoid a violent attack on the fence of the autonomous city of Melilla ” , responded in an interview on La Sexta this Thursday questioned by the change experienced in recent years.

Sánchez takes refuge in what the Government has advanced since it is in Moncloa: the rescue of 128,000 people at sea since 2018, the increase of 3,500 million euros in the cooperation budget or the modification of the regulations of the Immigration Law to allow that unaccompanied foreign minors can join the labor market like nationals. “I have always defended in the European Council the need to reach an agreement on migration and asylum. I have always defended in the European Council that migration policy is not only security policy, that is, border control. You have to talk to the countries of origin, you have to talk to the countries of transit”, he defended on the Atresmedia channel in which he also referred to the reception of 140,000 Ukrainians or the successful collaboration for the evacuation of Afghanistan.

The truth is that immigration is one of the musts of the current government. The Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into the massacre of the Melilla fence that occurred last week and that the UN has focused on assuring that “the excessive use of force is unacceptable.” In addition, Justice has condemned the Executive for the expulsion to Morocco of minors from Ceuta, precisely after the crisis generated by Morocco’s response to the reception of the polisario leader. Along the way, the Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, with whom, according to the sources consulted, the turn over the Sahara and some of the latest events with Morocco would have been impossible.

Despite the noise generated by Vox and the shameful images of the Moroccan gendarmerie on the other side of the fence, citizen concern about immigration is very low. Only 3.8% of those surveyed described it as a problem in the latest barometer from the Center for Sociological Research. There is some oscillation at specific times, such as the Cayucos crisis or the Ceuta crisis last year. However, at that time the CIS asked about the issue and 55% of citizens considered immigration positive compared to 27% who see it negative. 41.4% believe that the number of immigrants is high (4.1% that it is insufficient) while 22.5% respond that it is high and 19.9%, excessive.

Right-wing voters are the ones who most consider immigration to be a problem (11% in the case of Vox; 5.6% of the PP; and 4.6% of Ciudadanos). Only 2% in the case of the United We Can and 1.8%, of the PSOE.

The treatment of migration, however, confronts Sánchez with his partners, who this week have spoken of “shame”, “embarrassment” or “scandal” for what happened in Melilla, which to a certain extent tarnished the day that Moncloa had reserved to start a turn to the left with which the socialist will maintain a discourse against the powerful that collides with the justification of police action against people fleeing from hunger. However, the socialist wing of the Government emphasizes the mafias that traffic in these human beings and the violence that occurs when they reach the border.

The minority partner of the coalition has demanded that the Ministers of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska and José Manuel Albares, respectively, launch an investigation into what happened and, in addition, keep the recordings of the cameras of the border. The second vice president, Yolanda Díaz, has demanded “transparency” throughout the week and the Minister of Social Rights and leader of Podemos, Ione Belarra, requested it by letter to both ministers, although she has not yet received a response. “The ministers do not speak to each other through the media or through letters,” replied the Foreign Minister.

The Government leaves in the hands of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman the investigation that allies such as ERC, EH Bildu and Más País demand that it be carried out at the parliamentary level and it does not consider calling Morocco to account, as requested by the PNV. “You say that immigrants are needed and you pay Morocco to hit them and kill them at the border,” said ERC deputy María Dantas. The allies of the Executive have directly linked what happened in Melilla to the new relationship opened between the Government and Morocco.

This same Friday, the Minister of Migration, José Luis Escrivá, has asked for “sensitivity” with border workers and to understand the situation and the “pressure” that Morocco is experiencing with the management of the arrival of migrants to their country and from there to the territory European. “I am aware of the enormous situation of stress and difficulty with which they had to deal with that situation”, said the person in charge of Migrations at a lunch at the Fundació Pere Tarrés.

In the socialist ranks there is a certain weariness due to the display of discrepancies in public by the minority partner on sensitive issues. Sánchez sent a message to the minority partner by leaving his continuity in the Government up in the air if they oppose the increase in defense spending at a time when the president maintains that security is not “100% preserved” and in which it sees the Sahel as a territory in which to strengthen protection against threats such as Russia, but also jihadism or irregular migratory flows. “This is a question that the ministers of Podemos will have to answer,” he answered in La Sexta on whether the members of United We Can continue to be part of the Government if they oppose the increase in military spending or the new agreement with the US to expand his presence in Rota.

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Written by Editor TLN

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