EU ministers may get tough on illegal immigration
Fighting illegal immigration into the European Union by increasing cross-border police cooperation and data exchange is high up on the agenda of an EU ministers’ meeting starting January 14.
Justice and interior ministers from the bloc’s 27 member states are due to discuss ways of curbing the flow of illegal immigrants, mainly from poor African countries, when holding informal talks in the eastern German city of Dresden for three days. Germany currently runs the rotating presidency of the EU.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said he would seek to broaden access to asylum-seekers’ fingerprints for both EU police and justice authorities. At present such data can only be used by asylum officials.
For the first time, EU ministers are also expected to look at ways of opening up channels for legal immigration to help combat labour shortages in Europe. However, the focus will be on giving foreigners temporary migration opportunities to meet specific EU labour market needs.
EU officials have said that the bloc must try and attract economic migrants, “particularly those who are highly skilled,” to compensate for falling birth rates and an ageing population.
Member states, however, would keep their right to determine national quotas on immigration. EU officials say about half a million illegal immigrants enter the bloc each year. Spain, Italy and Greece are in the front line in the struggle to curb the flow.
With “Fortress Europe” crumbling under pressure from economic migrants and asylum-seekers, especially from Africa, EU leaders have promised to toughen border controls in problem regions.
Germany’s Schaeuble has said that he wants national governments to strengthen the bloc’s border watchdog Frontex by boosting its funding, resources and powers. In addition, Berlin wants member states to work closer together in the return of immigrants.
The agenda for the Dresden meeting also included German proposals to improve the application of divorce law for nationals of one EU member state living in another. Integration and intercultural dialogue is another issue flagged up by the German presidency.
Schaeuble suggested recently that EU states should train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.
For the first time, the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs of Bulgaria and Romania will attend the meeting in Dresden as members of the European Union, as will representatives of the candidate countries Turkey, Croatia and FYROM, as well as representatives of the EU Commission and the European Parliament.
The year 2006 was the most disastrous for would-be illegal immigration into the EU, with many people from African countries drowning as they tried to reach the EU’s southern borders, particularly Spain and the Canary Islands.
Boat with around 166 suspected Asian and African migrants arrives at Spain's Canary Islands