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EU Talks Focus On Illegal Immigration


Illegal immigration is high on the agenda of European Justice Ministers who are meeting for three days in Finland. The European Union has been battling a spike in illegal immigration this year, and there are no easy solutions to stem the immigration flow.

The catchword for tackling illegal immigration is cooperation, or at least that's what Finland is pushing, as the current president of the 25-member European Union. And the call for solidarity is being heard by European justice ministers who are holding talks until Friday, in Finland.

Elizabeth Collett is an expert at the European Policy Center, in Brussels.

"The key word that's been promoted by the Finnish Presidency is solidarity, alongside burden sharing," she said. "So there's going to be a strong focus on how to deal with irregular migration and border control and work out how to best support those nations who are bearing the brunt of irregular migration at the moment."

On Tuesday, the European Commission pledged $4.7 million to help Italy, Spain and Malta deal with huge waves of largely African illegal immigrants who have reached their shores this year. The body has also called on individual European countries to offer more assistance to these countries, especially in the form of boats and expertise for joint border controls.

But while many European countries consider illegal immigration to be a major problem, they don't always see eye to eye on how to tackle it. The French government for example, has cracked down on illegal immigration at home. It has also criticized neighboring Spain for regularizing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, while also asking for European help to fight new immigration flows.

Collett, of the European Policy Center, predicts the numbers of would-be immigrants trying to reach Europe by sea will dwindle in the coming weeks, but not necessarily because of European action.

"In terms of slowing, particularly in the Mediterranean, on a pragmatic level it's about good weather," she noted. "So as winter approaches, its likely that the numbers will drop, because the crossing becomes that much more difficult."

European patrols have also stopped more immigrant boats in recent weeks, Collett says, but the number of immigrants trying to reach Europe's shores has also gone up.