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EU,  Mediterranean Officials Meet on Illegal Immigration

European Union countries are meeting, for the first time, with their poorer Mediterranean counterparts, to find ways to stem the flow of illegal immigration to Europe. Lisa Bryant has more on the two-day meeting in Portugal.

The meeting in the southern city, Albufeira, brings together European Union countries and Mediterranean counterparts, such as Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Turkey. Host Portugal has made tackling illegal immigration a priority during its six-month term as EU president, which ends at the end of this year.

That goal will not be easy. More than 100,000 illegal immigrants reach the EU, every year, via the Mediterranean. Many thousands of others perish trying to reach Europe's shores. And, as immigration analyst Hugo Brady points out, Europe and the countries from which immigrants originate or through which they transit see the question of immigration very differently. Those differences will likely be on display at the Albufeira meeting.

"Both sides come to the table with connected sets of concerns," he said. "EU countries want only highly skilled migration...that will help their economies grow. And, they also want the countries they [illegals] come from or transited through agree to take them back.

Brady - a fellow at the Center for European Reform in London - says Mediterranean countries want material help from Europe to fight the flow of immigrants - many of them from sub-Saharan Africa. And, they point to issues like European agricultural subsidies that make it very difficult for their own economies to grow - another factor driving people to immigrate.

Brady notes the EU, itself, is divided over immigration.

"There's a huge internal tension," he said. "So, the pursuit of a common European policy on migration would be the most ambitious goal the EU has yet attempted."

Southern European countries want more EU aid to fight illegal immigration, arguing they are the first stop for many migrants. Meanwhile, northern countries criticize mass naturalization efforts - as in the case of Spain in 2005, when it legalized hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Brady says northern members want to create an EU pact on immigration, acknowledging that migration policies of any one EU member affect the entire block.