- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

European governments will face new pressure to crack down on immigration as evidence mounts that Islamic terrorists from North Africa carried out last week’s train bombings in Spain.

Even before the Madrid attacks, which killed 201 persons and injured more than 1,500, European Union governments were tightening immigration controls in preparation for the admission of 10 new countries to the bloc in May.

The idea that huge, largely unassimilated Muslim communities in Europe might harbor terrorists only will accelerate the trend, immigration specialists said yesterday.

In Germany, Wolfgang Bosbach, lead spokesman on domestic-security issues for the opposition Christian Democrats , said confronting the new terror threat in Europe “is inseparable from discussion on the immigration law.”

“We want to facilitate the expulsion of extremist foreigners … and make it possible to expel extremist foreigners even if they have not been prosecuted under criminal law,” he said in an interview with German broadcaster ARD.

EU interior and justice ministers have planned an emergency summit for Friday to discuss the Madrid bombings and ways to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

But past coordination efforts have faltered even as populist anti-immigration parties have racked up electoral successes in countries such as France, Austria and the Netherlands.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the possible role of Moroccan sympathizers of al Qaeda in the Spanish bombings “is likely to highlight a trend on immigration that was clearly already there.”

“There is a real fear among European publics that their Muslim communities are not assimilating, that they might come to represent a fifth column against the West,” he said.

Sizable Muslim minority communities in Europe tend to be poorer, more geographically concentrated and less ethnically diverse than in the United States, Mr. Krikorian said.

Denmark recently enacted a law to prevent radical Islamic clerics from entering the country. In France, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has boasted of plans to double the number of would-be illegal immigrants deported or turned away at the country’s borders.

The government of outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar introduced a new immigration law in 2000 and amended it three times in the next three years — each time to make it tougher on illegal immigrants.

Spanish authorities in recent years have arrested about two dozen suspects thought to be part of al Qaeda, and officials think that other Islamic terrorist cells operate in the country.

In an ironic twist, the incoming government of Socialist Party leader Jose Maria Rodriguez Zapatero has talked of easing some immigration controls, even though the Madrid bombings widely are credited with ushering the party to victory in Sunday’s vote.

“A qualitative change is required in immigration policy,” Francisca Sauquillo, a Socialist deputy in the EU parliament and an adviser to Mr. Zapatero, said at a Madrid news conference.

“What is needed is regulated immigration, without condemning immigrants beforehand,” she said.

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