22nd Jan 2022

Latin American leaders condemn 'racist' EU law

  • The Mercosur HQ in Uruguay (Photo: Vince Alongi)

Latin American leaders have sharply criticised as "barbarous", "xenophobic" and "racist" new European Union legislation on clandestine immigration that allows extended detention of undocumented workers.

"It hurts us deeply that there is no respect for the human rights of Latin American immigrants, who had to leave and seek elsewhere what they don't have in their own lands - just like their grandparents did," said Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, speaking at the 35th summit of the Mercosur trade bloc in Argentina.

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The EU laws are "xenophobic and discriminatory," he said, Bloomberg reports.

The EU's "return directive", which was passed by the European Parliament in June, allows the detention of irregular immigrants up to 18 months, and bans re-entry for scofflaws for five years.

The law has received repeated strong criticism from South American leaders, who were intent on issuing a resolution condemning the policy during the Mercosur meeting.

Combined, the bloc is the fifth largest economy in the world, which together with the other South American trade zone, the Andean Community, aims to form a South American Union, Unasur, modelled on the EU.

'Legalised barbarism'

The Mercosur "member states and associate states reject any attempt to criminalise the irregular migration and the adoption of restrictive immigration policies," reads the resolution, which also noted how, conversely South America had welcomed with "generosity and solidarity millions of European migrants in previous centuries."

The contrast in the two continents' attitude towards immigration was a common theme amongst the leaders.

Europeans who landed in the Americas "took possession of thousands of hectares of land, mines, natural resources and exploited our people," accused Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, while immigrants in Europe "are not exploiting anyone - they are not taking possession of thousands of hectares of land and mines; they are not destroying the natural resources."

"We were very generous with the Europeans who arrived in our land in the last century, and the truth is that it is not fair for our people to get a denigrating treatment," said Chile's Michelle Bachelet.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, for his part, said that the Return Directive embodies racism and discrimination.

"We need a strong defense of the dignity of our people," Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez told his fellow leaders, according to the Associated Press.

"Civilized Europe - I say that ironically - has legalised barbarism."

Mercosur brings together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, while Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have associate member status. Mexico is an observer.

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