Hundreds of Pakistanis held on Franco-Spanish border
BAYONNE: Police on the border between France and Spain say they nabbed hundreds of illegal aliens, most of them from India and Pakistan, trying to take advantage of a Spanish amnesty. The window closes on May 7.
It opened on February 7 to allow illegal immigrants in Spain to regularise their situation. An AFP correspondent at the Biriatou border post in France saw over 100 aliens arriving there on Monday in minibuses driven by Spanish police. They were handed over to French police.
Another 100 or so were nabbed on Saturday, said the French border police, adding that many others had crossed the border into Spain in cars, by train, and even on foot. “These clandestine immigrants are hoping to obtain permanent resident status in the European Union,” said a French police officer, adding that Spanish authorities feared the rush would keep going right up to the May 7 deadline. The influx has surprised authorities because the amnesty applies only to immigrants who have been living in Spain since August last year and hold a work contract. Illegal immigrants handed over to the French police at Biriatou were taken to a police station in Hendaye for questioning.
Many Indians and Pakistanis, all male and mostly young, have come from Germany, Italy or Paris. They claim to not speak English or any mainland European language and the local police have no Hindi or Urdu interpreters. That means the police were unable to notify them that they would be held longer for questioning and were therefore obliged to let them go without starting any expulsion procedure, said an officer.
No organisation is looking after them and dozens have congregated at the Hendaye railway station to try to work out what to do next. Others continue to arrive, paying taxi-drivers US $130 dollars to take four or five of them over the border. “The French police told me that if I go to Spain again, they were allowed to keep me in jail for five days,’“ said a 31-year-old Pakistani, speaking with some difficulty in English. He gave his name only as Muhammad, adding that he was going to try to get over the frontier again later in the day.
Muhammad was caught earlier at San Sebastian, just over the border, after having come south from Paris by high-speed train. “Spain is our last chance. For many, it’s like a dream,” he said, explaining that illegal Indians and Pakistanis in Europe believed Spain would be more welcoming than other countries. “It’s a shame because many of our people are living for 10 years in France and they can’t have papers,” he said. afp