Friday, July 18, 2008

EU Backs French Immigration Pact

From the BBC:

EU ministers have agreed in principle to a French plan aimed at reforming immigration rules across the union.

"The interior ministers gave their unanimous accord on the principles, the objectives, the presentation and the structure of the pact," said French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux.

The pact aims to make it easier for legal migrants to fill job vacancies in Europe and integrate. With its ageing population, Europe has a continuing need for migrant labour in many sectors.

The French news agency AFP says the pact allows for migrant "regularisations" on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with national laws. It also calls for repatriation agreements with countries where necessary and for the European Commission to draft an EU plan for common EU-wide asylum procedures to be in place in 2012, AFP reports. "We're talking about targeted and coordinated immigration - in other words, which takes account of countries' needs and their ability to host migrants, based on dialogue with the countries of origin," Mr Hortefeux said.

Spain and Malta have been struggling to cope with boatloads of African would-be immigrants in recent years. Meanwhile, the European Commission and human rights groups have expressed concern about the Italian government's plan to fingerprint tens of thousands of Roma (Gypsies) living in makeshift camps across Italy.

The EU has already adopted new rules for detaining and expelling illegal immigrants. The "returns directive", due to take effect in 2010, allows states to hold illegal immigrants for six months, extendable by another 12 months in certain cases.

Earlier this month South American heads of state jointly condemned the returns directive. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans live and work in Europe, many of them illegally.

In 2005, Spain said illegal immigrants could claim work and residency papers if they could present a six-month work contract and evidence that they had lived in the country since August 2004.

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