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IMMIGRATION

Brussels denies receiving Spain’s request for border help

Melilla chief asks for security forces to be given free rein against migrants to prevent “pull effect”

Illegal immigration is once again affecting relations between the Spanish authorities and Brussels. After last week demanding explanations and threatening disciplinary action against Spain over the death of 15 sub-Saharans trying to enter the North African exclave of Ceuta, the European Commission on Tuesday poured cold water on a Spanish Interior Ministry request for help dealing with the migratory pressure on its borders.

“As far as I know, no Spanish request has reached us,” said EC spokeswoman Cecilia Malmström, who expressed a note of skepticism over the ministry’s demands. “As far as I know, this kind of request is not made through the media, but I may be wrong,” she said.

On Friday Malmström used Twitter to express her unease at the Civil Guard’s use of rubber bullets against migrants attempting to get across the Ceuta border en masse on February 6, ending in a stampede that caused the death of 15 people. “Very concerned about Spanish border police using rubber bullets to deter migrants in Ceuta,” the Swedish Liberal People’s Party politician posted. “I expect clarifications from the authorities.”

The request that Brussels denies receiving is not a new one. Spain has spent years insisting that the battle against immigration is not just its problem and that European authorities ought to contribute to its cost.

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Melilla premier and Popular Party (PP) senator Juan José Imbroda told the Senate that current immigration legislation is not sufficient to combat the migration pressure on the borders of territories such as his Spanish African exclave, calling for reforms that would legalize on-the-spot handovers of illegal migrants back to Morocco.

The practice is constantly condemned by NGOs because of its illegal nature, but Imbroda argued that the rights of immigrants would be guaranteed in the process.

The Melilla chief, who was meeting with members of the PP grouping in the Senate to explain the issues his city is facing, also used the occasion to praise the work of the Civil Guard. “A pull effect will now be created if the state security forces are not allowed to act, if the Civil Guard cannot act with anti-riot equipment,” he said.

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