January 13, 2006

EU ministers vow new moves on migrants

European Union interior ministers took new steps to regulate national immigration and asylum policies, including a bid to agree which refugees should be granted shelter in the EU. The ministers backed during talks in Vienna proposals to create "rapid intervention teams" including interpreters and medics to help member states cope with sudden influxes of immigrants or asylum-seekers to their shores. A European Commission official said he hoped the teams would be in place before the summer months, when calmer waters in the Mediterranean tempt hundreds of migrants from North Africa to head across the sea to Europe in frequently overloaded boats. EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini also announced that he would launch by June the first of a series of pilot projects to assist four countries -Tanzania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine - deal with refugees to their territories in an effort to ensure they did not end up in the EU.
A critical analysis of EU plans to establish a so-called “refugee protection programme” in Tanzania has been published by INDABA, the quarterly of the Southern African Documentation and Co-operation Centre (SADOCC) in December.
Total asylum requests to EU states have fallen consistently in the last four years, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Around 112.154 persons made applications in the first half of 2005, 17 percent less than for the first half of 2004. (Rts)

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