Javier Maroto told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser in July that Algerians and Moroccans were registering as residents in the Basque city of Vitoria with the sole purpose of claiming social benefits.
“They've been told they can sponge off others here, many Vitorians have had it up to here with these people,” Maroto said.
“They have no intention of working or integrating.”
The Popular Party leader has been heavily criticized by political opponent Xabier Aguirre, president of the Basque Nationalist Party in neighbouring Alaba, who called him “The Hitler of Vitoria” on local radio.
Aguirre accused Maroto of “trying to attract” votes from those with “far-right” beliefs and opposition to immigration, a “dangerous” and “unfair” tactic as he argued the stereotype that all immigrants are “fraudsters isn’t true”.
Maroto’s staunch critic didn’t mention however that Vitoria’s mayor said: “It isn't the same with people from Latin America, they come to work and are willing to integrate.”
Basque MP Unai Rementeria has also spoken out against Maroto’s rhetoric, claiming his speech was a “Lepenization”, in reference to Jean Marie Le Pen, former leader of France’s Front National party and firm advocate on immigration restrictions in his country.
“There should be no room for such words in politics,” Rementeria told Spanish news agency Europa Press.
“He should be the mayor of all of Vitoria’s residents, including the immigrant population.”
Maroto has already revoked the residency documents of 300 people who falsely claimed they lived in the Basque capital to be able to have access to free food products in local supermarkets.
“If someone goes hungry in our city, we must help them. But we can’t just give them money for them to send back to Algeria and Morocco,” he stated.