European Union Confronts Immigration; Border Control, Development Lead Remedies

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

European Union Confronts Immigration; Border Control, Development Lead Remedies


Byline: Anupama Narayanswamy, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Each year, thousands of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa scale fences topped with razor wire or float on rickety rafts in risky and sometimes fatal attempts to reach the European Union.

In an effort to deal with this problem, EU leaders gathered in Hampton Court near London 10 days ago and adopted a two-pronged approach: establish effective border controls and encourage North African countries to develop their economies and train Africans for employment.

"The fight against those who traffic in immigration is a global problem that requires the same unity as the fight against terrorism," said Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, Spain's justice minister, in an e-mail interview.

At the October summit, Spain - one of the EU countries faced with a growing number of illegal immigrants - offered a "global immigration plan" that was endorsed by France. Although EU statistics show illegal immigration to Spain declined in the past year, Spain says it remains a serious cause of concern.

Ceuta-Melilla deaths

"As [Prime Minister] Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in London, the fact that Spain is closer to the entry gate of immigrants does not mean we're the ones who decide when to open or close the door," Mr. Aguilar said.

The Spanish-Moroccan border incidents in Ceuta and Melilla in September and October, in which Moroccan guards shot more than a dozen people scaling walls to enter the two Spanish enclaves, prompted the European Union to put illegal immigration on its summit agenda.

The incidents revealed flaws in the ambitious EU border-protection plans. The European Commission said the European Union was negligent about protecting borders.

"We are trying to take action on joint management of the migration flow into the European Union," said Telmo Baltazar, justice and home affairs counselor with the EU delegation to the United States.

Mr. Baltazar said the European Union will meet in early December and try to pass a resolution to deal with the illegal-immigrant issue. "The first step the EU is trying to take is to reinforce border control, particularly by organizing joint maritime control and military operations," he said.

Temporary refuges

Most sub-Saharan immigrants enter Spain via its North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. They use Morocco, Algeria and Libya as temporary way stations before the last leg of their journey.

"The EU is looking at making sure that these countries have the security to house illegal immigrants inside their territories," Mr. Baltazar said.

Stressing the need for cooperation with Moroccan authorities, Mr. Aguilar said: "We have to increase cooperation and dialogue with Morocco and with the countries where these immigrants come from."

Meanwhile, the Moroccan government has been accused of dumping illegal immigrants in the desert without food or water, raising concerns among human rights groups.

"There is a need for the transit nations to have better regulations," Mr. Baltazar said.

With this goal in view, the European Commission decided at the recent summit to give Morocco at least 40 million euros, most of it to buy surveillance devices to spot and stop illegal immigrants.

Entry policies sought

The Spanish daily newspaper ABC reports that at least 25,000 illegal immigrants from Africa have crossed the Pyrenees in the past few months, and the European Union estimates a half-million illegal immigrants are already in its member countries.

"We need to manage the external borders of the EU, demanding respect for human rights, and to integrate workers by honoring their rights through a policy of migratory flow," Mr. Aguilar said.

Another approach to curbing the immigrant problem is to provide financial support to the EU countries most affected by the unregulated immigration flow, such as Malta and Spain, Mr. …

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European Union Confronts Immigration; Border Control, Development Lead Remedies
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