EU Unveils New Immigration Plans

Nov. 30, 2006, 2:48PM
EU Unveils New Immigration Plans

By CONSTANT BRAND Associated Press Writer
2006 The Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium The EU's immigration chief on Thursday announced plans to attract skilled African labor while boosting efforts on the EU's southern borders to keep illegal, poor migrants out.

The proposals were meant to answer growing concerns that Europe is unable to prevent the mass influx of unskilled, economic migrants, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said.

More than 24,000 people have been caught trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands off west Africa this year, about five times the number for all of 2005. The vast majority sailed in crowded open boats, many dying en route.

Spain, France, and other southern EU members have pushed the EU to take urgent action to try to stop the migrations. Frattini's plans will now be discussed by the 25 EU nations.

Frattini said his plans would set up structured immigration rules and improve cooperation with African nations in an effort to fill growing shortages of skilled labor in Europe, notably doctors, nurses and engineers.

His plan foresees setting up European job placement agencies in African nations, where locals can apply to obtain temporary work in an EU country. The proposal calls for the EU to draft “migration profiles” of every African nation “to be able to evaluate the supply of labor in terms of available demand,” Frattini said.

He said the EU would also offer $53 million in aid to boost job creation in the poorest African regions, where most illegal migrant flows to Europe originate.

“We must fight illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings, not least of all to prevent the terrible exploitation and loss of life which so often results,” Frattini said. His plan also includes sending migration support teams to assist African nations in tackling human trafficking and other illegal smuggling activities.

African officials and aid groups have been critical of the EU, arguing it was not doing enough to address migration issues and poverty. They also said attracting only skilled labor would cause a brain-drain in Africa.

Frattini said, however, that his plans would not result in a shortage of educated talent in Africa. “We can avoid the brain-drain by enhancing our assistance to the countries of origin, by promoting initiatives to have a brain circulation rather than a brain drain,” Frattini said.

He said qualified labor would only be used “for a temporary period” and include possible further training that could be used upon their return home.

Frattini also wants to strengthen controls and monitoring of Europe's Mediterranean borders, which have seen mass flows of migrants from Africa in recent years.

The plan would reinforce the EU's external borders agency, Frontex, so it can run more patrol operations. Such patrols already started in August to help Spain deal with thousands of migrants trying to get to its Canary Islands.

Frattini said three main patrol areas were envisioned, in the west, central and eastern Mediterranean, pooling boats, planes and other monitoring equipment.