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Agustín Ndour celebrates the vote in the public gallery on Tuesday. EP
First stage of people's bill passed to give 500,000 illegal migrants official residency status in Spain
Migrants

First stage of people's bill passed to give 500,000 illegal migrants official residency status in Spain

A campaigner for migrant rights who came from Senegal over 20 years ago is celebrating after gathering sufficent signatures in a petition

SUR

Madrid / Granada

Friday, 12 April 2024, 12:42

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A migrant who settled in Granada over 20 years ago is celebrating after leading the campaign to get parliament to debate and vote to process his people's bill to make some 500,000 migrants without residency documentation legal.

After initial doubts, Spain's two biggest parties, the Socialist PSOE and the conservative Popular Party (PP), have finally given in to pressure from more than 700,000 people who, with their signatures, supported the so-called people's bill calling for 500,000 illegal, undocumented migrants to get official residency status. The Roman Catholic Church in Spain has also heavily backed the proposal from the outset, along with some 800 non-profit groups. The move will affect those living in Spain before November 2021.

"Nobody thought we would be able to do it, as you need to get half a million signatures minimum," said Agustín Ndour after the MPs' vote. Ndour, originally from Senegal, is a long-term campaigner for migrant rights and once stood for parliament. "The amazing thing is that the PP and [left-wing] Sumar have both voted the same way in favour of regularising paperwork," he added.

On Tuesday morning, the Socialist PSOE announced its support after initial reluctance, concerned that it could go against EU legislation. In 2004, the PSOE's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had just become prime minister and an identical decision was adopted that benefited 700,000 people, but which earned the Socialist government criticism from its EU partners, especially from France.

The PP also agreed to the proposal. Its leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said that immigrants in an irregular situation "need not worry because the PP is sensitive to them and will seek solutions for correct and legal social inclusion".

Sofía Acedo, a PP member of parliament later explained in Congreso, "We are taking the initiative into consideration because Cáritas has asked us to do so and employers need labour."

Pressure from bishops

Spanish bishops had been putting pressure on the parties for days to vote in favour of the proposal. One of the main charities that launched the proposal was Cáritas, which depends on the Catholic Church. "MPs have to reach agreements on central issues of human dignity and coexistence. Immigration is one of them," said Luis Argüello, Archbishop of Valladolid.

The support of the PP and PSOE left Junts, the right-leaning Catalan separatist party of Carles Puigdemont, as the only one still to show its hand on the proposed law. But in the end its seven MPs voted in favour of the proposal as well. The only party not to support the idea was hard-right Vox.

This popular initiative will now pass into the hands of a parliamentary committee and still has a way to go through Congreso before finally becoming law.

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