|Author (Person)||Coss, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.32, 12.9.02, p4|
FRANCE has put forward a plan to create special charter flights to deport illegal immigrants from EU territory.
The proposal was initially presented to EU asylum and immigration experts at the end of July but was not made public. References to it exist in the Council of Ministers' online register of documents (number 11388/02) but the text itself remains classified.
European Voice has however gained access to extracts of the plan.
France is proposing to coordinate a pilot project on what it calls 'grouped returns' of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who have had their applications to stay on their soil rejected.
One such return method would be for EU governments to set up joint charter flights containing deportees rounded up in several member states.
According to the document, France and Germany have agreed to study the issue and the UK has also expressed an interest in taking part in the scheme.
Several member states, including France itself, already use charter or scheduled flights to deport illegal immigrants.
But at present these operations tend to be carried out in a purely national context.
'The French are looking at ways of rationalising expulsion measures as part of wider efforts to create a real EU policy on immigration,' one diplomat said.
Airline pilots' representatives have reacted cautiously to the news that they may soon be asked to fly home planeloads of angry asylum seekers.
Herb Mayer, of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations, said he was not necessarily opposed to the plan provided adequate in-flight security could be assured.
'What we really don't like is flying deportees in aircraft that are also carrying passengers,' he explained. 'Using charter or state aircraft could be a good solution if there were an adequate number of security personnel on board,' he added.
The French authorities are relatively tight-lipped about the new plan.
'The document isn't really in the public domain,' one French diplomat said testily.
'Mr Sarkozy might say something on the subject at the informal council in Copenhagen,' he added, referring to France's new hard-line Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be meeting with his EU counterparts in the Danish capital tomorrow (13 September).
The French plan comes amid rising concern among civil rights groups about moves to toughen up the Union's rules on immigration.
The Copenhagen meeting will, for example, look at a controversial discussion document drawn up by the European Commission earlier this year, which argues in favour of an EU-wide policy on forcibly expelling illegal immigrants.
'Enforced repatriation can be inhuman and all our staff have instructions not to take part in forcible deportations,' said Ute Möhring, of the Red Cross Brussels office.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch has warned that the EU could find itself in breach of international law if it adopted the suggestions in their current form.
The Commission insists, however, that an EU immigration policy simply wouldn't work without provisions for forcible expulsions.
'You cannot have a credible EU immigration policy without a return policy,' Joaquim Nunes de Almeida, a senior aide to Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner António Vitorino, told European Voice.
'We should be able to send back people who are not allowed to live in Europe. There is no general right to immigrate,' he added.
EU diplomats say most Union governments appear to share the Commission's view.
'Governments seem quite positive about these plans and it is possible we could see agreement on the issue before the end of the year,' said one well-informed diplomat.
France has put forward a plan to create special charter flights to deport illegal immigrants from EU territory.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||France|