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  1. #1
    Senior Member zeezil's Avatar
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    May 2007

    EU Ministers Reach Agreement on Immigration Pact

    EU Ministers Reach Agreement on Immigration Pact
    By Lisa Bryant
    07 July 2008

    European Union ministers reached broad agreement on a common immigration and asylum policy during a meeting in France. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA that France, which holds the rotating EU presidency, wants the proposal to be formally adopted in October.

    EU justice and interior ministers meet to discuss new immigration rules, among other security issues, in Cannes, southern France, 07 Jul 2008
    Authored by the French government, the proposed immigration and asylum guidelines aim to set common European standards for legal and illegal immigrants. They would toughen policies against illegal immigration - for example, making sure those caught are expelled while basing legal immigration criteria on the needs of individual European Union states.

    France also wants to establish common European asylum policies.

    A number of European interior and justice ministers meeting in the resort city Cannes hailed the French proposals, with Greece's interior minister saying he hoped it would be finalized by the end of France's EU presidency in December. The Interior minister of Spain, which has voiced reservations about parts of the French proposals, said he was "satisfied."

    The proposed guidelines have been amended to take into account European concerns. French calls for European nations to reject mass regularization of illegal immigrants, which Italy and Spain have done in recent years, has been watered down, as has a French demand that immigrants sign a so-called "integration contract."

    But immigrant rights groups like CIMADE are critical of the immigration pact. Sonia Lokku, the head of the non-governmental organization's international cooperation department, says the proposals are based more on European security concerns than on human rights or Europe's economic needs.

    "Europe needs immigration a lot," she said. "It has been made clear for geographic reasons but also for economic reasons. There are lots of reasons for a country such as Spain, for instance, to have mass regularizations. Because they realize that migrants contribute a lot to the economy once they are at the peak of their growth.

    "And once they are regularized and once they become documented migrants they also pay taxes, they contribute to the social security system, to the pension system and so on. So it is really a win-win situation," she continued.

    In recent years, a number of EU countries have been cracking down on illegal aliens, alarmed by the tens of thousands of would-be immigrants arriving on their shores each year. At the same time, immigrant rights groups like CIMADE argue that an aging Europe will need more immigrants in its labor force in the future.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member zeezil's Avatar
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    May 2007

    France unveils immigration pact

    France unveils immigration pact

    Africans have risked their lives to reach the Canary Islands
    France is seeking EU-wide support for a pact on immigration, which it hopes to get adopted officially in October as current chair of the EU presidency.

    The pact would commit the 27 member states to common rules on the treatment of migrants and asylum requests.

    France is reported to have dropped its original plan for "integration contracts" - an obligation on migrants to learn the host language and culture. But the pact keeps a pledge to avoid mass amnesties for illegal migrants.

    The EU's justice and interior ministers were discussing the latest draft of the pact in Cannes on Monday.

    France has voiced opposition to mass "regularisations" of illegal migrants, such as Spain's mass amnesty for about 700,000 illegal migrants in 2005.

    But Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said he was "satisfied" with the French draft pact, adding: "I think it's very important for us to have a common immigration policy".

    There are an estimated eight million illegal migrants in the EU.

    Migration challenges

    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.

    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. Ecuadoreans were the largest group to apply under the amnesty, followed by Romanians and Moroccans.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member MyAmerica's Avatar
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    Oct 2007

    France unveils pact on EU-wide immigration

    France unveils pact on EU-wide immigration

    Sarkozy waters down scheme to appease Spain
    · Push for approval by all 27 states at October summit
    Ian Traynor in Brussels The Guardian, Tuesday July 8, 2008 Article history

    France yesterday jolted Europe into establishing common policies on immigration, refugees and asylum, unveiling a European immigration pact as its first big EU presidency move and pushing for 27 countries to back it at an EU summit in October.

    Meeting in Cannes, EU interior ministers tentatively endorsed President Nicolas Sarkozy's drive to harmonise immigration policy across the EU after he scrapped or watered down the most contentious elements to make them more palatable to Spain and other countries.

    The French proposal denies the EU is seeking a Fortress Europe, arguing that harmonisation of policy is needed to "master migrant flows, make integration easier and promote development of [migrants'] countries of origin".

    "We are not turning Europe into a bunker, but we are steering migrant flows in the world," said the German interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble.

    The French scheme aims to make it easier for the EU to attract highly qualified immigrants to fill labour shortages in Europe, to beef up policing of the EU's borders, to establish common European refugee and asylum policies by 2010, and to expel illegal immigrants.

    But Sarkozy's own plans for immigration quotas in France were strongly criticized by French government advisers as "unrealistic and irrelevant", according to leaks in the French press yesterday.

    Sarkozy has had to strip his European pact of key elements. The French initially called for an "obligatory integration contract", defining how immigrants would have to behave across Europe. But Spain balked at the requirement and last week the French immigration minister, Brice Hortefeux, dropped the demand after touring European capitals on a campaign to have it accepted.

    French calls for a ban on the wholesale legalisation of illegal immigrants also ran into opposition. The Spanish and Italian authorities have resorted to blanket amnesties in recent years, enraging other EU members because the hundreds of thousands of people affected were then able to travel elsewhere in the EU.

    Last month the EU ended three years of argument over the deportation of illegal immigrants, estimated at 8 million in the EU, by finally agreeing legislation on returning illegal immigrants. Under the law illegals can be detained for 18 months and, once deported, barred from re-entering the EU for five years. The law has been bitterly attacked outside the EU, particularly in Latin America.

    The French proposals focus on five areas - regulating legal immigration, returning illegal immigrants, strengthening EU borders, "partnership" with the countries of origin of the migrants, and asylum policy. On the latter, the French are pushing for the EU's first "asylum support office" to be up and running within 18 months.

    The French pact builds on new EU laws such as the "return directive", and other drafts from the European commission such as the contested "blue card" scheme, modelled on the US green card and aimed at attracting highly-skilled workers.

    So far it has been impossible for member states to agree on blue cards because national labour markets vary and governments are reluctant to sacrifice control over who is admitted to their countries.
    "Distrust and caution are the parents of security."
    Benjamin Franklin

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