The Portuguese government is devising a plan of action to curb a potential influx of illegal immigrants, from the African continent, trying to get into Portugal along the coast. The Minister of Internal Administration, António Costa, was quoted as saying that the risk is not immediate, but it does exist. The Algarve and Madeira regions are two of the most susceptible areas for this, and could experience a greater number of immigrant arrivals.
A plan of action is being drafted to reinforce security along the Portuguese coastline with the help of Frontex, the European agency for the management of operational co-operation at the external borders of the Member States of the European Union. The director of the agency, Ilka Latinen, was in Lisbon recently to meet with António Costa, who said that the plan would highlight the most vulnerable areas of the coast and proposed tightened security measures in those areas.
The government is keen to address the potential situation before it is too late, so the plan is being treated more as a preventative measure rather than one which is reactionary. The plan will comprise of anticipated humanitarian issues and refuge if immigrants manage to penetrate the borders. The minister was reported to have said: “We cannot be under the illusion that we are immune to the risk of illegal migrants.” The director of Frontex praised the forward thinking of the Portuguese government.
The Canary Islands is a prime example of African immigrants choosing vulnerable areas, close to their borders, to flee to. This year, more than 18,199 Africans have risked their lives to reach the islands, which is double last year’s figure.
Every year, more immigrants are arriving in Europe from Africa and a resolution to the problem has become a top priority for the EU. Last month, the European Commission discussed the viability of creating a force to spearhead emergency responses. Many countries have already begun collaborative efforts to stop boats carrying illegal immigrants, and the Portuguese ship, Baptista de Andrade, has been patrolling the waters off Cape Verde in Africa, as part of the European patrol, HERA 2.
Spain, one of the worst affected areas for illegal immigrants, has begun to patrol the sea off the coast of Senegal and Mauritius. It is estimated that around 100,000 Africans wait in Senegal every year for the opportunity to escape to the Canary Islands.
The Portuguese government is desperate to avoid an illegal immigrant influx crisis and the EU is endeavouring to control the problem, but many believe that because the issue was not dealt with earlier, the fight seems futile.