Brussels welcomes deal on immigrant detentions

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The accord, which sets a six-month limit detention period, has drawn concern from pressure groups.

28 April 2008

BRUSSELS - The European Union's executive on Friday welcomed a deal between the European Parliament and member states limiting to six months the period over which illegal immigrants can be detained.

But the accord has drawn concern from some pressure groups, worried that it will not guarantee the rights of irregulars.

Brokered by the Slovenian presidency of the EU and clinched this week in Strasbourg after years of disagreements, the deal on the so-called EU Returns Directive also regulates the deportation of illegal immigrants, re-admission to their country of origin and access by non-governmental organisations to EU detention centres.

"We welcome this compromise," said a spokeswoman for the European Commission, adding that it demonstrates that the EU is able to reach an agreement on "key issues, even if these are sensitive".

EU countries currently have widely diverging rules on the detention of illegal immigrants, ranging from a 30-day limit in France to indefinite detention in Britain and six other states.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the EU directive on 4 June. But its approval is by no means assured because of reservations by the second-largest political bloc in the hemicycle, the Socialists.

Millions of third-country nationals live in the EU without official papers, and illegal immigration has emerged as a major political bone of contention in France, Germany, Britain, Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

Reacting to the news of the agreement, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) expressed serious concerns about the willingness of member states to adopt measures designed to protect the rights of illegal immigrants.

"We consider that (the) systematic detention of persons who have committed no crime, including families and vulnerable persons, is inhumane and unwarranted," ECRE said in a statement.

"Detention should only be used as a last resort, as long as removal arrangements are in progress and when other alternatives have been proven to not work," it added.

ECRE groups 63 organisations in 28 European countries and seeks to promote a fair and generous European asylum policy.

[dpa / Expatica]

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