France’s first political act as president of the European Union will be to present a Europe-wide immigration and asylum pact. The proposal is expected to be tabled when the 27 EU interior and justice ministers meet on Monday, in Cannes, on the French Riviera. France and Spain worked on the package together. They did not unveil details.
Patrick Gaubert, in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, said: “We work exclusively on legal immigration policy, but if one wants to promote legal immigration one sometimes has to be very tough with illegal immigration as well.”
EU states hardened their policy last month, approving the ‘Return Directive’ agreeing that illegal migrants could be detained for up to 18 months, then expelled, with a five-year return ban.
The EU’s Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said it is also time to reinforce the common border agency, Frontex, established three years ago: “Unfortunately, for complicated legal reasons today we have constraints on Frontex. It is there to improve control of the EU’s external borders, and is only able to patrol the flow of immigrants, while it should also take care of security.”
Human rights advocates, including at the United Nations, say the Return Directive will erode protection for very vulnerable individuals, and lower standards of treatment. Amnesty International said the directive “sets an extremely bad example to other regions in the world.”
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