European Union nations on Friday debated immigration policy proposals that would create reception centers in Eastern Europe and Africa to stem the flow of illegal immigrants looking for a better life in Western Europe. EU interior and justice ministers, wary of allegations that EU nations have allowed CIA-run prisons holding terrorist suspects on their territory, also debated a European Commission plea that they craft common pretrial detention norms.
"We agree there must be joint basic rules for the rights" of those facing trial or extradition," said German Interior Minister Brigitte Zypries. There are vast differences now across the EU in the right to legal aid, interpreters and consular assistance. At the proposed reception centers, migrants heading for the EU would receive shelter, security and medical care, but no promise of a future in Europe.
It was not immediately clear what would happen with asylum seekers. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, wants asylum seekers to have their requests screened first at the centers. However, Austrian Interior Minister Liese Prokop, who chaired the EU meeting, expressed her country's view that "there will be no asylum granting" at such centers.
EU reception camps are being considered for Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and in Africa. The first may open in Tanzania to house people leaving Central African states. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday proposed a separate center for "the growing number of immigrants from the Horn of Africa claiming to be Somalis."
He said it was urgent to establish EU-wide political refugee status, telling his EU colleagues, "It is absurd and counterproductive that an asylum seeker can now obtain different results (to an asylum request) depending on the EU nation."
The EU ministers also discussed creating a database listing human rights conditions in countries that generate illegal immigration and do not help the EU reduce that exodus. Friday's debate stemmed from an ambitious five-year strategy, that took effect in 2005, to regulate legal and illegal immigration and to combat terrorism and other cross-border crimes to make the EU a safer place.
But asylum, law enforcement and immigration have proved tough subjects, as they have long been areas of national responsibility. The European Commission insists EU governments, if they are to be true to their human rights commitment, must have uniform policies for handling terror and crime suspects awaiting trial or extradition. A comparative study the commission presented to the EU governments Friday found disparities in the right to legal aid, translations, an interpreter, consular aid and in the treatment of suspects viewed as vulnerable, such as women and children. Balancing security and the rights of suspects across the continent is essential for the EU to act effectively to stem illegal immigration, people trafficking, money laundering and terrorism, reports the AP. N.U.