1. As you read the press article below on Immigration in Argentina underline or write down what you think is the most important idea in each paragraph.


RIGHTS-ARGENTINA: Menem links crime to undocumented immigration

By Marcela Valente (ADAPTED VERSION)
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 2000 -

Argentina's President Carlos Menem stated Wednesday that undocumented immigrants must leave the country, implicitly blaming them for the crime wave in urban centres.

1. "We have already signed amnesties and agreements with neighbouring country and from now on, unfortunately, illegal immigrants will have to leave the country, because we cannot submit our community and police to the increase in crime," said Menem. The presidential declaration closed a week of debate on the link between crime and the perception of insecurity of people living in Argentinian towns and cities where undocumented foreigners have settled. Discussion of the subject started following the announcement of an official initiative to increase sanctions on employers taking on illegal foreigners, encouraging denunciation as a method via which to erradicate crime amongst the undocumented.

2. On other occasions, the government had blamed the foreigners for unemployment. All surveys state insecurity due to the increasing crime wave and unemployment are the two main concerns of Argentinians One of every two inhabitants of the city of Buenos Aires has suffered some sort of crime in recent months, according to resarch by the Sofres Ibope company, and 95 percent of people consulted in the same survey stated they perceived a strong increase in insecurity.

3. The debate was accompanied by a series of police operations where dozens of foreigners with expired residency permits were arrested after failing to carry out the transactions necessary in order to remain in the country. Police raids included the closure of unauthorised canteens in an apartment building, the clientele of which included immigrants paying 1.5 dollars for a plate of food. These canteens were also staffed by immigrants. Consuls from neighbouring countries explained in the majority of cases the problem is that immigrants cannot find formal employment and, hence, cannot present the papers needed for a permanent visa.

4. National director of migrations, Hugo Franco, said Wednesday the majority of crime in the city of Buenos Aires is committed by illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries and Peru. Franco's information agreed with comments by the Interior Ministry and Federal Police, claiming street crime is mainly carried out by Peruvian citizens - something hotly disputed by the opposition. Most immigrants from Latin American countries work in the worst- paid more precarious jobs: domestic employment, in the case of women, and construction and the textile industry for men. Leaders of the opposition alliance considered the ruling party was exaggerating the illegal immigration phenomenon - in the same way as do the right wing of Germany and France - blaming foreigners for all the country's ills. In Argentina, unemployment stands at 13.4 percent of the economically active population, and according to those questioned by Sofres Ibope, this is one of the main causes of the increase in crime in the urban zone around Buenos Aires.

5. Sociologist, Enrique Oteiza, of the State and Society Studies Centre, claimed the government is using immigrants as a "scapegoat" for the problems of insecurity and unemployment. According to Oteiza, author of the book "Immigration and Discrimination," half the Argentinian population was made up of foreigners from Europe in the twenties. "The proportion of immigrants has never been as low as it is now," he said.

6. However, the public perceives an increasing number of immigrants and above all of undocumented individuals. The government calculates these number more than a million, while Oteiza and opposition leaders say there are no more than 100,000 or 200,000 such people.Most of the immigrants come from Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay,Paraguay and Peru, and, according to Oteiza, the society considers them to be of a "lower calibre" than foreign residents coming from Europe or the United States.

7. Some 99 percent of immigrants enter the country on tourist visas, having to renovate this by presenting a work certificate after the first three months. And this is when they disappear into the grey area, for many of them work informally or in temporary jobs where no social security contributions are made. Governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Eduardo Duhalde, had also blamed undocumented foreigners for stealing - scarce - jobs from Argentinians, an argument which finds fertile ground amongst the marginal social sectors. "Charity rightfully begins at home and if the situation becomes more difficult we must think first of the Argentinians and then of the foreigners," said Duhalde, the leading presidential precandidate of the ruling Justicialist Party.

8. And the argument is backed in journalistic media by people who write pejoratively of foreigners, blaming them for crime and bad behaviour. The right of foreigners to live in the country is guaranteed under the Argentinian Constitution, but given the increase in crime and unemployment, the presence of immigrants is used by the ruling party to justify problems, said Oteiza.



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