Illegal immigrants hoping for a new life in Europe now face 18 months in detention, after Euro MPs voted for tough new laws on immigration. Years of debate ended in a comfortable majority in favour of a harsher approach. Illegal migrants will also suffer a five-year ban on re-entry.
Conservatives and Liberals supported the proposals, while the Left and the Greens argued for cutting down the length of detention. The measures have attracted criticism from human rights’ groups and aid workers, who say they give the green light to governments to lock up more people.
Britain and Ireland, which are not part of the EU’s border-free Schengen zone, will not implement the new law.
Immigration is an increasingly sensitive issue in Europe. Pressure to accept more migrants to fill job vacancies left by an ageing workforce contrasts with voters’ worries about security and unemployment. There are an estimated eight million illegal immigrants in the EU. In the first half of 2007, 200,000 people were arrested, but fewer than half of them were expelled.