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Europe Endorses Plan to Stem Flow of Illegal Immigrants - 2002-05-30

European Union nations have endorsed the idea of stronger police cooperation to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the continent. At the same time, Britain has announced plans to speed up the deportation of failed asylum seekers.

British Home Secretary David Blunkett announced Thursday he will introduce legislation to allow the deportation of asylum seekers within a day or two if their initial claims are rejected.

The new law would force would-be refugees to return to their home country, or the country they came from, before they have a chance to file an appeal, as Mr. Blunkett explains. "If your rights [to asylum] are clearly unfounded, [and] we do not believe you are at risk of death or torture, then you should go back and you should exercise your appeal rights from outside this country," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair advocates a tougher stand on undocumented immigrants out of concern that right-wing politicians are exploiting the issue.

However, refugee activists and liberal politicians criticize the British proposal, saying it ignores the fact that thousands of asylum seekers each year win their cases on appeal.

Meanwhile, EU officials met in Rome Thursday to endorse a proposed continent-wide police force to crack down on illegal immigration.

There was agreement that last September's terrorist attacks in the United States underscored the need for Europe to monitor immigrants and their activities more closely.

The proposed police force would coordinate protective services at airports and harbors and would be operational no later than 2007.

European Union leaders plan to make a final decision on the force in June at a summit in Seville, Spain.