The European Parliament has approved new rules for detaining and expelling illegal immigrants, legislation that human rights groups consider unfair.
EU lawmakers voted in Strasbourg Wednesday to let governments detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and impose a re-entry ban of up to five years. The rules are to go into effect by 2010. Britain, Ireland and Denmark have not signed on to the agreement.
Estimates of immigrants in Europe illegally vary from eight million to 12 million people. The new rules provide them some protections, including the right to apply for residency and to leave voluntarily, as well as access to legal counsel.
Amnesty International, among other rights groups voicing concern, says the measures do not ensure that illegal migrants will be returned to their home countries in safety and dignity.
Current detention limits vary within the EU, with most countries mandating maximum periods shorter than 18 months.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.