France Urges EU Immigration Curbs

Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK

France urges EU immigration curbs

Mr Sarkozy has adopted a tough line on immigration
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has called for EU nations to adopt a common, tough standard in dealing with illegal immigration.

“We can't all continue to have our own immigration policies,” Mr Sarkozy said, ahead of talks in Madrid with EU members from southern Europe.

Mr Sarkozy has accused Spain of causing a surge in illegal immigration by offering migrants an amnesty.

Thousands of Africans have been held trying to reach Europe this year.

The number of migrants making the illegal sea crossing to Spain and Italy has rocketed recently, with some 24,000 Africans having arrived in the Spanish Canary Islands this year alone.

EU member nations have failed to agree a common policy on immigration, with disputes focusing on how much control countries should retain over their borders.

EU-wide moves

Mr Sarkozy says he will put the case for an EU-wide policy on illegal immigration when he meets ministers at eight-country talks on the issue in Madrid.

Spain has been dealing with a massive influx of migrants

“We can only solve the problems of immigration through perfect coordination with our European partners,” Mr Sarkozy said.

He is expected to call for the EU's Frontex border agency, charged with patrolling the African coast, to be bolstered by military and police forces “in case of massive influx”.

Mr Sarkozy is to argue for the creation of a single European asylum agency that would decide whether to award individuals refugee status on a European, rather than national, level.

In remarks quoted by AFP news agency, Mr Sarkozy also favours an EU ban on member states offering amnesties to illegal immigrants.

He plans to argue for “the prohibition in future of any mass regularisation measures”, AFP says.

Mr Sarkozy has accused Spain of encouraging illegal immigration by offering an amnesty to some 600,000 unregistered migrants last year.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hit back at the charge with a reference to the riots that last year rocked French suburbs populated by immigrants.

Mr Zapatero said Spain “does not accept what the French interior minister might have to say, after what we saw in the neighbourhoods of Paris”.