France firm against N African immigration camps

31st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

TUNIS, Jan 31 (AFP) - France remains opposed to offshore holding camps for asylum seekers to Europe, including in North Africa, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published Monday.

TUNIS, Jan 31 (AFP) - France remains opposed to offshore holding camps for asylum seekers to Europe, including in North Africa, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published Monday.  

"The Mediterranean has always been a crossroads of migration and a human melting-pot (but) states have a duty to exercise control over the flows in the interest of everyone," he told the Tunisian daily Le Temps.  

Raffarin, who was winding up a two-day visit to the former French protectorate, said such control should produce a proper partnership between Mediterranean countries to the north and south.  

Paris is "opposed to the idea, raised by certain (European Union) partners, to set up transit centres outside the EU, notably in North Africa, to filter candidates for immigration," he said.  

"Such a solution, apart from the moral and ethical questions involved, because it is against our traditions, would have the disadvantage of concentrating flows of illegal immigration and assist criminal gangs making profits out of this traffic."  

Britain first floated the idea of creating camps in north Africa for people seeking asylum in Europe in June, and the proposal has been picked up by the German and Italian governments who are desperate for ways to deal with the rise in illegal immigration.  

But France, Portugal and Spain are also unhappy about the idea, as are organizations like Amnesty International, as some of the proposed venues such as Libya and Tunisia have shaky human rights records.  

The idea was discussed at a summit on illegal immigration and Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in Rome in October, when French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier voiced Paris's opposition, recalling the experience of the Sangatte centre on the Channel.  

The Red Cross refugee centre in Sangatte, near Calais in the north of France, served during its three years in existence as a temporary home to some 68,000 illegal migrants, mainly Afghans and Iraqi Kurds.  

It was shut down in November 2002 with great difficulty after migrants living there used it as a staging point for nightly attempts to reach Britain through the Channel tunnel.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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