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Europe, Africa Agree to Slow Illegal Immigration

European and African officials have agreed to a series of joint measures to stem the flow of illegal immigration to Europe during an unprecedented, two-day meeting Morocco. Plan mixes tougher security with incentives to stem to the exodus from Africa.

The action plan agreed to by ministers meeting in Rabat includes 67 recommendations on ways to prevent illegal immigrants from entering European soil, and incentives to keep Africans from emigrating in the first place.

The meeting of ministers from more than 50 African and European countries represents the first time they are jointly tackling the problem of illegal immigration, which has become a major issue in Europe.

The officials agreed to re-inforce their judicial and police cooperation, and create African data bases to fight against illegal immigration. They also called for launching publicity campaigns to warn would-be immigrants about the risks of illegal immigration - such as the possibility of drowning at sea, which has been the fate of a number of Africans bound for Europe.

The ministers also called for stepped-up European development assistance for Africa - particularly creating employment in zones of high emigration. The plan is short on specifics, including financing.

It does, however, call for the African diaspora living legally in Europe to help improve conditions for their fellow countrymen at home. It also foresees offering incentives for Africans studying in Europe to return to their home countries.

Countries across Europe are cracking down on soaring illegal immigration from Africa, and elsewhere. But French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, who attended the Rabat conference, said European governments rejected the idea of zero immigration or of a so-called "fortress Europe".

But in remarks on France radio, Sarkozy said neither France nor Europe would accept what he called the extremist discourse of those who supported immigration without limits. We cannot receive all those who see an El Dorado in France or in Europe, he said.

Sarkozy is promoting what is called a chosen-immigration program for France, hoping to lure only the best and the brightest. But such programs alarm many African governments, who fear a brain drain of talent they need at home.