Members demand EU action on illegal immigration

26th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 25, 2006 (AFP) - Eight southern European leaders have called for a Europe-wide effort to combat rising illegal immigration, in a joint letter to the EU released by the French president's office on Monday.

PARIS, Sept 25, 2006 (AFP) - Eight southern European leaders have called for a Europe-wide effort to combat rising illegal immigration, in a joint letter to the EU released by the French president's office on Monday.

"The urgency of the problem of illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and southern Europe requires a strong mobilisation from the European Union and a joint commitment from the migrants' countries of origin, transit and destination," the joint letter said.

"Everyone must contribute to the fight against illegal immigration, which concerns the whole of the European Union and not just the countries that guard its outer borders," it said, calling for a "real political will" to tackle the problem.

Spain, Italy and Malta — all three among the signatories of the letter — have spearheaded appeals for European Union help in confronting a mass wave of illegal immigration, mainly from Africa, onto their shores.

The European Commission released EUR 3.28 million last week to help them improve reception centres and provide assistance for would-be immigrants, as well as strengthen maritime surveillance off Malta.

But among member states, only Finland, Italy, Portugal have so far committed patrol boats or planes to the EU's Frontex border agency, operating off Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde, alongside Spanish boats in the area.

In the letter, addressed to the Finnish EU presidency, the European leaders called for the question to be put high on the agenda of an informal summit of EU leaders in Lahti, Finland on October 20.

They said it was crucial to "rapidly conclude readmission agreements" with African and Mediterranean countries, and to "reinforce operational cooperation in the management of the European Union's southern border".

The leaders also suggested providing "technical and financial assistance" to countries used for the transit of migrants, and to "deepen partnerships with those countries most committed to the fight against illegal immigration."

A similar letter was sent to the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso — who recently wrote to all 25 EU member nations calling for more solidarity in tackling the growing problem.

The appeal was signed by prime ministers Romano Prodi of Italy, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, Greece's Costas Karamanlis, José Socrates of Portugal, and Slovenia's Janez Jans, as well as presidents Jacques Chirac of France, Lawrence Gonzi of Malta and Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus.

Spain, in particular, has been swamped by some 22,000 illegals arriving on the Canary Islands archipelago off northwest Africa this year, more than double the previous annual record dating to 2002.

Italy's island of Lampedusa has also become a major arrival point for migrants from north Africa, with more than 10,000 arriving in the first seven months of this year.

The European Commission has been virtually powerless to deal with the problem, apart from providing funds, and has implored the bloc's member countries to show more solidarity.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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