Over half of young people in the Balearics fear immigration is reaching excessive levels and the Balearic government was yesterday forced to start addressing what is going to prove to be a very delicate issue. Minister for Commerce and Balearic vice-president, Pere Sampol, gave his backing yesterday to measures aimed at “moderating” both regional economic growth and the “unsustainable” demographic growth. The population over the past five years has grown by 118.248 inhabitants to a population of 878.627 at the end of 2001. Sampol said that the primary reason for the high level of migration to the Balearics has been the runaway rate of economic growth over recent years which had been creating so many jobs. The local population was unable to meet the needs of the employment market. Sampol was quick to point out that he has no intention of sparking an “economic crisis, but to create a climate of far more moderate economic growth.” He said that the region's resources are limited, adding that too large a population will make managing the economy harder and also pose a threat to Balearic society, culture and above all the environment. Sampol however made it quite clear that the environmental threat has nothing to do with population capping and warned fellow politicians to be extremely careful with comments they make about immigration. In the year 2000, 79 per cent of people migrating to the Balearics were from mainland Spain and 35 out of every 100 inhabitants have been born outside the Balearics. This year, 17.077 immigrants are expected to move to the Balearics, 13.760 will be European Union citizens (10.740 from Spain, 2.640 from EU countries and 380 from other European countries) while 1.405 will come from Africa, 1.764 from South America, 140 from Asia and eight from Australasia. At the start of next year, the director general for the Economy, Antoni Monserrat, plans to hold a conference of the economy and immigration to “study society's concerns and look for solutions.” Monserrat said that, behind Madrid, the Balearics has the largest percentage of non-indigenous born residents. He too stressed that the immigration issue needs to be dealt with carefully “it's a Pandora's box which is very easy to open.”

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