Softer approach to illegal immigration

SPANISH police have been warned not to carry out ‘massive’ or ‘indiscriminate’ checks to flush out illegal immigrants. Neither may quotas for a fixed number of immigrant arrests be imposed on police officers.

These are amongst guidelines in a circular issued on Monday by the General Police Directorate. Police are frequently criticised for the types of citizens they routinely ask for identification in the street or crowded public places like bus stations or Metro stations.

Those approached are invariably targeted because of the colour of their skin or their physical appearance, non-government organisations point out.

This is untrue, insisted Interior minister, Jorge Fernandez at the weekend. Requests for identification are based solely on crime prevention, he said.

The instructions were put in writing in the circular to clarify in a straightforward manner how citizens are to be treated when asked for identification, said Spain’s police chief, Ignacio Cosido.

The circular was also aimed at preventing ambiguity or “imprecise interpretations” leading to “improper” restrictions to immigrants’ rights and freedom. Operations deemed “unnecessary, arbitrary, abusive or going beyond the legally-permitted functions of the police” are also ruled out in the circular.

Identifying people who arouse police suspicions should be “proportionate, respectful and likely to cause the least impact on the individual.”

Irregular immigrants should not be taken to a police station if they can prove their identity and provide an address, it states.

These guidelines must now be taken into account when planning and carrying out operations, said the circular. Prevention should instead be at the heart of eradicating the networks involved in illegal immigration and people-trafficking.

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