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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

Portugal, Spain

Portugal reported that 175,263 foreigners lived legally in the country at the end of 1997; 58 percent were EU nationals. By region of origin, 47 percent were Africans; 28 percent were Europeans; and 20 percent were from North and South America. Those from the former African colonies of Cape Verde, Angola and Guinea Bissau topped the list, while Brazilians made up the largest non-African group of resident foreigners. For more information: />
Portugal had a legalization program that permitted illegal foreigners who spoke Portuguese and met other conditions to legalize their status. About 35,000 applications were filed, and 30,000 foreigners were legalized. Law 50/96 permits non-Portuguese nationals to vote in local elections, including persons from other EU countries and nationals of Cape Verde, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay.

In 1997, Portugal enacted a law that limits foreigners to 10 percent of a company's labor force-- EU nationals and nationals of Brazil, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau are not counted as foreign under this law.

Spain. The Association of Immigrant Moroccan Workers (ATIME) in Spain estimates that over 1,000 Africans, an average of five a day, have drowned in the Strait of Gibraltar between January and August 1998. The Spanish government, which registers only deaths that take place in national waters, has counted 200. The ATIME estimates that another 800 have drowned in Moroccan waters. Over the past decade, an estimated 3,000 foreigners have died trying to reach Spain from Morocco.

The immigrant advocacy group estimates that 17,000 North Africans have been captured and deported to Morocco by Spanish police this year, and that 20,000 remained in Spain or moved to other European countries. Spain permits a maximum of 25,000 non-EU foreigners to work in the country.

At least 38 foreigners drown trying to sneak into the Spanish Moroccan enclave of Melilla by boat on July 6. The Spanish government did not report the incident immediately because it happened in Moroccan waters. Critics of the Spanish government say that the bodies floated in the water for 10 to 15 days while the authorities ignored them. The victims had paid $1,000 each for the attempted crossing from Morocco to the Spanish enclave.

Spain is completing fences around the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla that are tucked into northern Morocco. Non-Moroccans try to enter these Spanish cities, and then apply for asylum; under a repatriation agreement, apprehended Moroccans are returned to Morocco.

The number of Muslims in Spain has more than doubled, and over 100 new mosques have open since 1990. According to government estimates, Spain has about 300,000 Muslims; some estimates place the number at up to half a million. About 3,000 to 5,000 Spaniards have converted to Islam, but the biggest factor in the rise of Islam is immigration from North Africa. The Andalusian city of Granada is again becoming a center for Islam, 500 years after the city fell during the Christian reconquest in 1492.

Tito Drage, "Not even 1,000 deaths have stemmed the flow," Inter Press Service, August 11, 1998. Sinikka Tarvainen, "Islam returns to Spain after 500 years," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 1, 1998. "Portugal's Legalized Foreign Population Rose 1.4 % in 1997," Dow Jones Newswires, July 30, 1998.