Machete attack in Spain puts illegal immigration back on the agenda in Europe

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The attack that killed a sexton with a machete and injured a priest on Wednesday (25) in Algeciras, in southern Spain, has put the issue of irregular immigration in Europe back in the spotlight.

By chance, European Union ministers already had a meeting scheduled this Thursday to discuss ways to curb illegal entries and send more migrants back to their countries of origin. The conversation took place two weeks before a summit, with leaders of the bloc on February 9 and 10, which may establish new parameters for the topic.

The suspect, Yassin Kanja, 25, a native of Morocco, was in Spain in an irregular situation. On June 16, he was arrested in Cádiz, and the police found that he did not have the necessary documents for residency. Automatically, the expulsion procedures were initiated, but, as the man had no criminal record and had a fixed address, the process dragged on without him leaving the country.

After the detention, the Moroccan could have been transferred to a Foreigners Detention Center, so that, within 60 days, he could be sent to Morocco. In cases where the process is not concluded within the deadline, the process continues with the migrants at liberty.

Kanja had no known links to terrorism, but traces of jihadist chats were found by police on his mobile phone. In the attacks, according to some witnesses, he would have shouted phrases like “death to Christians” and “Allah is great”.

Police revealed that the suspect had already been expelled from the country. On August 5, 2019, he crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with other Moroccans, but the group was intercepted and returned to the African country three days later. It is not known when he actually managed to enter Spain.

According to the EU border agency, Frontex, around 330,000 migrants entered the continent illegally in 2022, the highest number in six years, with a sharp increase on the Balkan route. “We have a big increase in irregular arrivals,” said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in conversation with the bloc’s 27 migration ministers this Thursday in Stockholm.

“We have a very low rate of return and I can see that we can make significant progress here,” he said, according to a Reuters news agency report. Today, only about a fifth of migrants are sent back. More pressure through visas and aid for the development of about 20 countries that the EU considers not cooperating in the resumption of its citizens were some of the topics discussed.

Since 2015, when more than 1 million refugees tried to settle in Europe, the bloc has been tightening borders and asylum laws. One of the suggestions, seen as taboo but which has been taking shape, is the construction of walls, like what former US President Donald Trump did in a somewhat shabby way on the American border with Mexico.

There is talk, for example, of a blockade separating Turkey and Bulgaria. Dutch Justice and Security Minister Eric van der Burg said he was open to EU funding for border barriers.

While many nations protest against irregular immigration, especially Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa, Germany is waving in the opposite direction. According to the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, the country needs workers from outside the bloc. “We want to conclude migration agreements, particularly with North African countries, that would allow a legal route to Germany.”

Running out, having left the EU, the United Kingdom continues with its noisy plan to send immigrants to Rwanda who land irregularly. The country is 7,000 km from London, in central Africa, and has the 160th worst HDI in the world.

The idea was met with horror by the Labor opposition. But last month, in a victory for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the British court found that the project did not violate either the country’s human rights legislation, from 1998, or the UN Convention on Refugees, from 1951.

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