|Author (Person)||Harding, Gareth|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.4, No.46, 17.12.98, p17|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
IMMIGRATION and asylum issues continued to be high on the EU's political agenda in 1998 amid increasing public concern about the influx of migrants into the Union and member states' ongoing difficulties in agreeing a common approach.
Even though the overall number of refugees and asylum-seekers has levelled out in the EU, political leaders had to be seen to respond to voters' worries about 'floods' of illegal migrants. Some political parties openly played the race card, but most settled for tighter measures to stem the flow of political and economic refugees.
Spurred into action by a sudden influx of Kurdish migrants into Italy at the end of 1997, ministers adopted an action plan on immigration in January which aimed to plug the gaps in national frontiers through better coordination of policy between member states.
In spite of this, EU countries were still preoccupied with the issue as the year drew to a close.
At the Netherlands' behest, ministers agreed to set up a task force on asylum and migration to establish a common approach to tackling the problems which cause influxes of refugees and asylum-seekers in the countries where most of them come from.
They also agreed, through the so-called Eurodac Convention, to set up a computerised system for registering asylum-seekers to prevent 'displaced persons' applying for refuge in more than one member state.
Italy and Austria's decision to join the Schengen area in March, extended the border-free zone to 11 countries. But periodic French checks at Belgian and Italian borders underlined the fact that some member states still do not trust each other to carry out effective frontier controls.
With enlargement to the East looming, the ability of central and eastern European applicant countries to guard their borders against immigrants from the ex-Soviet Union remains a real worry for many EU countries.
Feature forms part of the European Voice 'Review of the Year'.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|