EU Panel Wants Maximum 18-Month Period For Detention Of Illegal Immigrants

EU panel wants maximum 18-month period for detention of illegal immigrants

The Associated Press
Published: September 12, 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium: European Union parliamentarians took the first crack Wednesday at defining common EU rules for illegal immigration, recommending that illegals be held no more than 18 months before deportation.

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee also voted in favor of prohibiting the expulsion or detention of unaccompanied children, and granting those suffering from a serious illness a residence permit giving them access to medical care. It decided that EU member states must not expel refugees to countries where their lives would be in danger.

The draft rules will now go to the full 785-seat EU assembly and to EU member states for approval. Currently, the maximum detention period varies from country to country, with some imposing a limit of just 32 hours while others have no restrictions at all.

The lawmakers decided illegal immigrants can be held in custody for three months from the moment they are apprehended by police, after which an extension of up to 15 months needs to be justified for example, when background checks on the immigrant take longer or if the person has no valid papers and documents must be obtained from third countries.

“A common return policy is an essential part of a common asylum and immigration system in order to tackle illegal immigration,” said Dutch Liberal legislator Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

Children with families can only be held in custody as a measure of last resort and must be provided education and opportunities to play, parliamentarians decided.

The issue came to the fore in July when Belgian police were accused of mishandling the deportation of an 11-year-old Ecuadorean girl and her mother, who complained of inhuman treatment while in custody.