PositionIllegal immigration problem

No-one underestimates the difficulties the European Union faces in dealing with a growing tide of illegal immigration. But the internal debate is providing still further evidence of a lack of political leadership in the EU.

The Dutch Presidency has made a priority of seeking solutions to the problem. But its informal justice and home affairs council last weekend made little perceptible progress.

The discussions ranged over numerous possibilities: establishing centres in transit countries beyond the EU's borders; boosting the asylum framework in countries in North Africa; processing applications from asylum-seekers before they reach EU territory; and resettlement schemes for unsuccessful applicants.

And there was intense examination of technical considerations such as training asylum officials, or the prospects for a common EU asylum system and the EU common border management agency. Legalistic issues were reviewed such as how to arrange judicial review for asylum decisions taken beyond the EU, or of at what point in their journey across international waters any illegal immigrants caught could be legally sent back to the country they transited.

Much of the talk was of "partnerships" and "burden-sharing", of applying the Geneva Convention on refugees, of guarantees regarding living conditions, and of...

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