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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

Southern Europe

Spain. The Spanish Government in October 1999 announced that it would allow 300,000 seasonal foreign workers to enter Spain each year for up to nine months in order to relieve labor shortages in agriculture and construction. Spain has signed a bilateral agreement with Morocco regulating seasonal workers, and is negotiating agreements with Colombia, Ecuador, Mali, Romania and Poland that provide transportation and housing assistance as well as health care while in Spain.

Spain has an estimated one million immigrants, including 25 percent who are unauthorized.

Two journalists crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a motorized rubber dinghy with smugglers and 30 aliens were arrested by Spanish police. The journalists said they were doing research on alien smuggling; the police charged them with aiding smugglers. A second boat ran aground on rocks and three people drowned.

On September 17, a group of Moroccans used a cellular phone to call the Spanish police to rescue them because their boat's engine had died and they were fighting strong currents. All 28 men on board were returned to Morocco.

The Commissions on Immigration and Lay Apostolate of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and the Catholic organizations Caritas and Justice and Peace, rejected a proposed immigration bill which the Catalan CIU party presented in Parliament. The Catholic organizations believe that the new law does not include all the principles that must govern Spanish immigration policy, such as parity between foreigners and Spaniards in labor rights.

Turkey. Some 15,000 people died in an earthquake centered in Izmit on August 17, 1999; Izmit is just northwest of Istanbul, and drew many migrants from southeastern Turkey. Several hundred thousand people were left homeless. Many people, with homes and jobs destroyed, returned to their villages of origin. Some prominent Turks warned of another round of unrest in the southeast, as migrants who hoped for advancement in western Turkey are forced home. Turkey's GDP is expected to shrink in 1999 by 1.5 percent.

In a potentially significant announcement, Greece in September 1999 said that it would support, rather than block, Turkish entry into the EU.

On September 13, police arrested 167 Iraqis who had illegally entered Turkey in the eastern Van Province.

"Spanish Catholics Oppose New Law on Immigrants," ZENIT, September 19, 1999. "71 Illegal Immigrants Seized, One Missing at Sea," BBC Worldwide Monitoring, September 18, 1999. "Three dead after immigrants' boat wrecked, two journalists arrested," BBC Worldwide Monitoring, September 15, 1999. "Adrift Moroccans Helped into Port, Then Sent Home," Orlando Sentinel, September 11, 1999.