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April 2003, Volume 10, Number 2

Spain, Portugal

Spain. Ships from five European nations began patrolling the Mediterranean in January 28-February 8, 2003 to prevent migrant smuggling, the first time EU members have cooperated in this way. Under Operation Ulysses, Spanish, British, French, Italian and Portuguese police, customs and navy ships are patrolling from Algeciras, Spain to Sicily.

The joint patrol got off to a slow start, not stopping boatloads of migrants and failing to agree on a common language. The ships were told to exchange bilingual personnel, but then discovered that their communications systems were incompatible. The British and Portuguese pulled out, and the Italians complained that bad weather prevented them from leaving port.

In 2002, Spain removed 74,467 foreigners, including 23,381 Moroccans and 18,865 Romanians. Spanish police intercepted 1,000 boats and arrested 16,504 people in 2002.

In January 2003, Spain approved a new law that allows Spanish women to claim citizenship for children over 21 years old born out of Spain, and allows foreigners with Spanish relatives to apply to live in Spain without having a work visa. As a result, over a million foreigners, primarily in Latin America, are expected to apply to migrate to Spain, including 400,000 from Argentina. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo warned that "It is impossible to take lightly a measure that could increase the population of Spain by 2.5 percent."

Spain has labor recruitment agreements with Romania, Poland, Ecuador, Morocco and Bulgaria in 2004. There are three categories of foreign workers: those with contracts for a year or more, seasonal workers with contracts for less than nine months work in Spain, and young people ages 18-35 who can be employed in Spain up to 18 months. The agreements are reciprocal, and permit Spaniards to work in these countries on the same basis. The foreign workers participate in Spanish social security and health systems on the same basis as domestic workers.

Portugal. President Jorge Sampaio said Portugal must do more to integrate migrants: "We were also a nation that sent immigrants abroad and we have a duty not to forget the battle and effort many Portuguese went through during the period of emigration." There are 400,000 foreigners legally in Portugal, and perhaps another 100,000 illegals in the country of 10 million.

Some five million Portuguese live abroad, including one million each in the US and Brazil and 800,000 in France.

There are an estimated five million Ukrainians employed abroad, chiefly in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Ukrainians moved to Portugal in part because some of them learned Portuguese fighting anti-colonial wars in Africa; Portugal and Ukraine in February 2003 signed an agreement that will allow some of the estimated 200,000 unauthorized Ukrainians to become legal seasonal workers.

Portugal allows workers 18 sick days a year, and has the highest rate of absenteeism in the EU. A new labor law effective in January 2003 allows employers to fire workers who are absent four days in a row or eight days during a year without justification.

Elizabeth Nash, "Europe's first migrant patrol founders on the rocks of incomprehension," The Independent, March 11, 2003. Paulo Prada, "Spain moves on immigrant beachhead," Boston Globe, February 23, 2003. Isambard Wilkinson, "Door opens for million immigrants to Spain," Daily Telegraph, January 20, 2003.