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EU Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration

The European Union is drawing up plans to crack down on illegal immigration. EU interior ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, approved a series of steps to establish over time a joint management of the European Union's external borders as part of the fight.

The Spanish EU presidency says the ministers called for the creation of an organization to better manage the external borders of the 15-nation bloc, and they requested more focus on training for border guards.

The meeting also reviewed guidelines for a common system of exchanging information to fight visa fraud. In the battle against illegal trafficking in human beings, the interior ministers asked non-EU countries that are the source of illegal immigrants to take several steps.

"Domestic legislation should criminalize trafficking in human beings and confiscate the boats used to smuggle human beings," said Mariano Rajoy Brey, representing the EU presidency. "Furthermore, there should be criminal sanctions for the fraudulent manufacture and use of travel documents."

The European ministers also reviewed a plan to tie aid to immigration. This would be done by offering incentives to countries that help prevent their citizens from heading for Europe illegally and imposing sanctions on countries that do not.

The measures will be presented at the European heads of government summit in Seville, Spain, next week for endorsement.

Officials estimate that about 1.5 million illegal immigrants enter EU countries every year, along with almost 400,000 seeking asylum. Several nations have tightened their own immigration controls, but they believe a coordinated approach is needed across the EU.

In a statement, Britain said that if democratic politicians fail to tackle difficult issues posed by immigration and asylum, people will increasingly embrace extremist solutions.

Pressure for immigration reform in Europe has been increasing with the recent rise in support for right-wing and anti-immigration politicians in several countries, including Italy, Austria, France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have urged the European Union not to deny genuine refugees the right to asylum and protection.