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EU meets on migrant camp proposal

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EU meets on migrant camp proposal

Interior ministers of the five biggest west European states have begun talks in Florence on handling immigration, terrorism and organised crime.

Topping the agenda are proposals backed by Germany and Italy to create large holding centres in North Africa to process would-be migrants to Europe.

Illegal immigration is one of the most sensitive issues on the EU's agenda.

Individual governments and the EU have struggled to find humane, but effective, ways to curb migration.

They wish to allow genuine refugees to enter while keeping illegal asylum-seekers out.

Under the new proposals, large processing centres would be set up where migrants would be given basic accommodation and protection while their claims were assessed.

"What's to be said against us creating a facility outside the frontiers of Europe that could check whether people have grounds for asylum or other reasons for fleeing?" said German Interior Minister Otto Schily in a recent interview.


Germany and Italy are keen on the idea and the United Kingdom previously made similar proposals, but France and Spain are opposed.

"We're not going to back any initiative that does not respect minimum social and humanitarian conditions," Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said last week.

Human rights groups have voiced concerns about whether poor countries in Africa can provide adequate conditions to care for large numbers of asylum-seekers.

The opening of the mini-summit in Florence, which ends on Monday, was marked by demonstrations from immigrant support groups.

Protesters carried banners against "racist laws" and set off flares as the meeting started.

Illegal immigration is one of Italy's key problems because many boat people set off from the Libyan coast bound for Lampedusa - a tiny island between Africa and Sicily.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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Spain thwarts Canaries migrants

The Spanish authorities have detained 176 illegal immigrants who tried to reach the Canary Islands by ship.

It is the largest single detention of immigrants off the islands this year. The ship appears to have come from Guinea Bissau or Cape Verde.

An official said the attempt showed a significant jump from the usual practice of using small boats.

Around 5,500 would-be illegal immigrants have been detained trying to get to the islands this year.

The latest arrests were made early on Friday.


Salvador Garcia, spokesman for the regional interior ministry in Las Palmas, said: "All the immigrants are reported to be in healthy condition."

He said they would be held for 72 hours to start repatriation proceedings.

"It's the first time this year that human traffickers use this modus operandi in bringing immigrants to the Canary Islands. It represents a significant jump from what they normally do with small boats," he said.

The ship, the MV Polar, was detained after a local fisherman tipped off police when he saw a large boat with lots of people on board drop anchor a mile off the island of Las Palmas.

Reports say three people jumped into the sea as the police vessel approached, but were later detained on land.

Another 87 illegal immigrants were arrested on two smaller boats off the coast of Fuerteventura on Friday.

Thousands of people try to reach Spain or the Canary Islands each year, hundreds drown in the attempt, and the authorities have stepped up efforts to stop them.

The Spanish government says 5,494 have been detained in the Canaries this year, compared to 7,460 over the same period last year.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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