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Spain to increase immigration budget

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The Spanish government will spend an additional €321 million on immigration in 2008, according to Spanish Labour Minister Jesus Caldera.

Spain's immigrant population has increased from 500,000 in 1996 to 4.48 million in 2006, according to Spain's national statistics bureau.

The bulk of the funds, €312.51 million, will go towards integration programs while the remaining €8.58 million will be spent of controlling Spain's borders.

In addition, Spain and neighbouring Portugal have called for a common immigration policy across the European Union.

"This common policy should include integration policies for the 25 million immigrants who currently live in Europe legally," said Alberto Navarro, the Spanish secretary of state for European affairs.

His Portuguese counterpart, Manuel Lobo Antunes, said his country was ready to offer aid to Spain in its struggle against illegal immigration through the Canary Islands.

More than 30,000 illegal immigrants reached the Canary Islands in 2006.