Migration key issue at Paris talks

Proposed EU immigration laws likely to be focus of Mediterranean Union meeting.

    Spain's Canary Islands received around 12,000 migrants from Africa last year [EPA]

    The European plan, presented at the beginning of the week in Cannes, sets out principles for the EU to manage migration, fight illegal immigration and help development in poor countries that people are leaving or travelling through to get to Europe.

    It aims to organise legal immigration based on a state's needs and ability to welcome people, and combat illegal immigration, ensuring that foreigners who do not have papers are removed.

    EU nations would base legal immigration on workers or professionals whose skills are tailored to their particular labour needs, favouring those who would stay in their countries long term.

    Plan criticised

    The pact, which was welcomed by the United Nations' refugee agency, is to be signed in October, according to France, which currently holds the EU presidency.
    The immigration proposal has also been criticised for its unilateral nature. Some called for more joint solutions for the problems of immigration.

    "Africa needs to come up with its own pact and maybe one day the two pacts can come together into one Euro-African migration pact"

    Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Senegal's foreign minister

    Senegal, which has seen a large outflow of migrants, wants Africa to forge its own immigration pact.
    "Africa needs to come up with its own pact and maybe one day the two pacts can come together into one Euro-African migration pact," Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Senegal's foreign minister, said.
    For the economies of many African countries, including Senegal, money sent home by immigrants in Europe and elsewhere is more import than development aid.
    Raddho, a Senegalese non-governmental organisation that focuses on human rights and justice issues, has expressed "intense worry" at the EU's new guidelines and the possibility of that cash flow being curtailed.
    The Dakar-based watchdog called on the African Union (AU) to protect its citizens and engage with the EU on the matter of immigration.
    "The establishment of a European pact on immigration and asylum will accentuate the vulnerability and the criminalisation of immigration and asylum rights," Raddho said.
    Burkina Faso's Le Pays newspaper, meanwhile, has criticised the new rules, saying that "to stop the desperate hordes coming from the southern countries, Europe has not found a better solution than to build a wall".
    "We thought the time of walls was over, but we did not count on the strong desire of Europe to protect itself against the 'threat' of illegal immigration."

    "It's North against South," it concluded.

    Latest tragedy

    The immigration issue was spotlighted on Friday, when at least five African migrants were found dead after a boat carrying 55 others reached Spain's Canary Islands.

    Illegal immigrants travel thousands of kilometres across the African continent - through war-torn and impoverished countries - to try to reach Europe.
    Many of the migrants begin in West and Central African countries, such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Senegal, journeying across the Sahara desert to North Africa before braving the Mediterranean sea.
    Dying from hunger and sickness en route is commonplace, while others are simply thrown overboard by smugglers.
    The three main points for African illegal immigrants to get into Europe are the Canary Islands, mainland Spain and Italy.

    Two years ago more than 30,000 Africans landed in the Canaries before dropping down to 12,000 last year, while mainland Spain detains around 8,000 illegal immigrants a year.

    Another entry point to Europe is Lampedusa, north of Tunisia and south of Sicily. In recent years, the Italian island has received 10,000 illegal migrants a year.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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