- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

VIENNA, Austria — European ministers moved yesterday to harmonize asylum laws to reduce the number of refugees trying to enter the European Union and pledged to strengthen cooperation in deporting illegal aliens.

The current system is flawed by the different standards used by the bloc’s 25 member states to decide who deserves to be granted refugee status.

According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Austria recognized more than 50 percent of asylum seekers as refugees in 2004 compared with only 0.3 percent in Greece.

“It’s just not possible for us to have different rulings in the 25 member states on who should be granted refugee status,” said Austrian Interior Minister Liese Prokop, whose country hosted the meeting as EU president.

“It is absurd and counterproductive if asylum seekers can get a different answer depending on what country of the union they are in,” said French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the lack of common standards had fostered “asylum shopping, due to the huge differences in member states, and we should absolutely overcome this situation.”

He said rapid-response teams must be set up to help states under particular pressure because of their proximity to heavy migratory areas like northern Africa.

Almost 30,000 people tried to illegally enter Italy and Spain in 2005.

Europe’s immigration struggle was highlighted in September when African immigrants tried to break into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Morocco in the hope of having a better life across the Mediterranean.

Fourteen persons were killed and Spain was embarrassed when Morocco clumsily tried to dispose of the problem by busing hundreds of would-be immigrants into the desert.

The rush came after Madrid announced early last year that it planned to legalize the status of some 600,000 illegal aliens, sparking a storm of protest from France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Mr. Frattini encouraged member states to organize joint flights that could be used to deport illegal aliens.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have already done so, sending home clandestine immigrants not just from Africa, but also from Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and Iraq.

“If we want to credibly react against illegality, we should elaborate a true European return and repatriation policy for illegal people,” Mr. Frattini said.

Mr. Sarkozy said Britain and France were working together to send volunteer Iraqi Kurd refugees back to their region, which is relatively safe by strife-torn Iraq’s standards.

He said they were sending officials to the region next week to negotiate a return agreement with authorities there.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide