EU’s five biggest countries split over migrant camp proposal


Interior ministers from France, Germany,
Italy, Spain and the UK have begun talks in Florence on
handling immigration, terrorism and organised
crime.  France and Spain oppose the
creation of immigration centres in North Africa for would-be

Topping the agenda are proposals backed by Germany and
Italy to create centres in North Africa to
process claims of asylum seekers wishing to
find a safe heaven in Europe. Under the new proposals,
large processing centres would be set up where migrants
would be given basic accommodation and protection while
their claims were assessed. 

The screening of asylum-seekers outside Europe is
supposed to make sure that only genuine refugees are
allowed to enter the EU teritorry while fake
asylum-seekers are kept out.  “What’s
to be said against us creating a facility outside the
frontiers of Europe that could check whether people have
grounds for asylum or other reasons for fleeing?”
said German Interior Minister Otto Schily in a recent
interview. Britain has previously made similar

France and Spain are opposed. Spanish Interior
Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said last week that his
country is “not going to back any initiative that
does not respect minimum social and humanitarian
conditions”. France and Spain are also said to
fear unintended effects from such centers claiming
they could bring together terrorists and
criminals. Human rights groups have voiced concerns about
whether poor countries in Africa can provide adequate
conditions to care for large numbers of

The name of Libya was floated as a potential
host for such camps. But the
country’s Prime Minister Shoukri Ghanem has
recently denounced the camps in an interview published by
the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.  “It
does not seem to us a good idea to put illegal immigrants
into camps in certain countries. You must instead help
them to remain where they are, and do something about
creating jobs,” Mr Ghanem said. 

The other main topics of discussion of the so
called ‘G-5’ meeting on 17-18 October in
Florence will be the fight against terrorism and
organised crime. Germany, France and Spain will
point to their efforts to share their national registers
of those with criminal records by the end of 2005 and are
expected to press the other countries to do
likewise. However, Britain has already made clear
its opposition to some elements of closer judicial
co-operation with its European neighbors, including the
creation of a European prosecutor’s position and
granting Europol jurisdiction powers that transcend
national borders.

The five governments have regularly exchanged
information on suspected terrorist activities.
France is pushing for a ‘systematic’
exchange of list of persons that have undergone training
in terrorist camps. 


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