The European parliament has passed tough new immigration guidelines
that sparked protests on the part of human rights groups and some
lawmakers. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.
governments had already approved the new immigration measures, but they
still awaited passage by the European parliament. That happened
The guidelines allow the European Union's 27
members to hold illegal immigrants for up to 18 months in special
detention centers before deporting them. That is considerably longer
than current detention policies in most EU countries - but members are
not required to adopt the longer limits.
Those expelled also
face a five-year re-entry ban applicable for the entire bloc. But
governments must first give the immigrants a chance to leave the
country voluntarily - and they are required to offer those detained
free legal advice and other basic rights.
Those supporting the
measures, including EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot, argue they
safeguard rights for legal immigrants while setting common European
standards for illegal ones.
Barrot says Europe does not want to
be a closed fortress. It will continue to welcome immigrants from
elsewhere - just as it does now - and remain faithful to offering
asylum to those needing it. But he says the European Union cannot
accept illegal immigration, which he argues is not fair to anyone.
critics like Nicolas Berger, director of Amnesty International's
Brussels office, claim the new immigration guidelines are unfair.
have mainly got two concerns about this reform directive," Berger
said. "One is the length of detention. People [can] get detained for
one-and-a-half years and these are people who have not committed any
Amnesty is also worried that the five-year re-entry ban could hurt those who truly need asylum.
is for us going in the wrong direction here quite a bit in terms of
continuing this discourse of scapegoating immigrants, of putting
immigrants and asylum seekers in the same box as criminals and
connecting them to terrorism without looking at reality and individual
cases," Berger said.
About eight million illegal immigrants
reside in the European Union, according to the bloc's estimates. More
than 200,000 were arrested in the first half of last year - but less
than 90,000 were expelled.