Berlin, Rome calls for refugeetransit centres on EU agenda

29th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

29 September 2004 , BRUSSELS - Controversial calls by Germany and Italy for holding would-be refugees to the European Union in North African transit camps tops the agenda as the bloc's home affairs ministers meet in the Netherlands later this week. EU officials said they expected German Interior Minister Otto Schily to present his proposals for the transit camps to his 24 colleagues and the European Commission on Friday. "So far we have only heard declarations about the setting up of these centres," said a

29 September 2004

BRUSSELS - Controversial calls by Germany and Italy for holding would-be refugees to the European Union in North African transit camps tops the agenda as the bloc's home affairs ministers meet in the Netherlands later this week.

EU officials said they expected German Interior Minister Otto Schily to present his proposals for the transit camps to his 24 colleagues and the European Commission on Friday.

"So far we have only heard declarations about the setting up of these centres," said a European Commission spokesman, adding that he now expected Schily to provide more detailed proposals.

Schily is expected to secure the backing of his Italian colleague, with both men touting Libya as a probable site for such camps.

Similar proposals were also tabled by Britain last year but fell off the EU agenda after receiving scant support from other governments.

The suggestions continue to remain controversial with France and Scandinavian nations opposing the move. The European Commission has also warned that the EU faces a legal obstacle in trying to manage such centres outside its territory.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also opposes setting up such centres outside, especially in Libya which recently turned back Eritrean asylum seekers.

Human Rights groups say they will be monitoring developments closely to see how the debate develops.

Amnesty International has warned that it needs more information on where camps will be located, who will administer them and if the applicants will be put under detention.

It has also warned that such centres could encourage trafficking in human beings and endanger human rights.

Proponents of the scheme say it will help reduce the number of people who lose their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

The UN says up to 5,000 such deaths may have occurred over the last ten years.

But it also published figures earlier this month showing that the number of people seeking asylum in the EU was on its way down.

EU foreign ministers next month are expected to lift sanctions on Libya, allowing Italy to sell more sophisticated border control equipment to Libya.

Tripoli has also signalled its intention to sign a UN convention on refugees, thereby improving its credentials to host such EU centres.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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