[Stop-traffic] News/Italy & UK: Closing Europe's back door

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Italy & UK: Closing Europe's back door
From: Jyothi Kanics (jyothi@odihr.osce.waw.pl)
Date: Tue Feb 06 2001 - 09:06:06 EST


Closing Europe's back door 

After last week's revelations in The Observer, Tony Blair and his
Italian counterpart Guiliano Amato join forces to combat Europe's
scandalous trade in human misery 

Sunday February 4, 2001

The Observer 



People trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal business.
The
Western Balkans is now one of the main transit routes into Europe
for
illegal immigration and people-trafficking. In the first 10 months of
2000, more than 50,000 migrants are estimated to have passed through
Bosnia en route to the West. Organised crime is involved in almost all of
that migration. Many of the criminals involved also deal in drugs,
prostitution, slavery and pornography. All European Union countries are
having to deal with this problem, but Italy with its long Adriatic
coastline and the United Kingdom, like Italy one of the final destinations
for many illegal immigrants, have agreed on joint actions to disrupt the
traffic and ensure that the people who profit from this evil trade can no
longer do so with impunity. Every day we hear of the horrors illegal
immigrants endure at the hands of the people-traffickers. The catalogue of
death in recent times speaks for itself. Fifty- eight Chinese at Dover
last year, hundreds drowned annually crossing the Mediterranean to Spain,
Italy, and Greece. There is evidence that traffickers have thrown women
and children, many of whom cannot swim, into the Adriatic to avoid
detection by police patrol boats. In all that we do, we will honour our
obligation to provide protection to those fleeing persecution. But we must
not allow such tragic loss of life to continue. The EU must act decisively
to ensure that the Western Balkans, so long prey to ethnic conflict, does
not become captive to organised criminal structures. This is why European
governments must work more closely to tackle the flow of illegal
immigration, drawing on existing co-operation agreements in the area,
primarily the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and the Balkans stability
pact. Italy and the UK have therefore agreed to: Lead the creation of an
EU liaison officer network in the Western Balkans. Many member states
have, or are posting, immigration liaison officers to key capitals in the
region. Bringing those experts together, and encouraging the sharing of
information, intelligence and tasks, will boost our joint response to
illegal immigration. We want the network to be up and running by mid-2001.
Lead the deployment of expert teams from EU member states to the Western
Balkans, to work together in combating illegal immigration. Inspired by
Italian experience in Albania, and as part of a wider effort involving
other European countries, the UK and Italy are both willing to send teams
of national immigration and police officials to the Balkans to provide
on-the-ground support in combating people trafficking. These teams would
monitor the immigration situation, provide advice and training, and help
in the fight against organised crime. We now call on other member states
to join our commitment, to make such a deployment effective and feasible.
Support the return of illegal immigrants. We are both stepping up our
assistance to voluntary organisations and local authorities seeking to
return migrants from the region to their countries of origin. This
assistance will complement the negotiation of formal readmission
agreements. Call for consideration at EU level of how we can most
effectively identify and return those who illegally arrive in EU member
states. Increase our bilateral exchanges of immigration experts. We plan
to exchange immigration liaison officers between Rome and London within
three months, and to favour joint working at ports and airports outside
the EU. This will allow us also to enhance bilateral co-operation in
certain areas and to prevent and tackle, for example, illegal immigrants
using the rail network or transiting the countries of Europe from the
Balkans to the UK. We plan to learn from these experiences in planning
future exchanges. Encourage the EU Police Chiefs' Task Force to drive
forward operational work against human traffickers. Trafficking in human
beings will be on the agenda for EU police chiefs when they meet in
Stockholm on 8 March. We want EU police chiefs to be able to use this, and
future meetings, to take forward more joint operations against human
trafficking and other major organised crime threats. Push for fuller use
of Europol and member-state intelligence in fighting human trafficking and
people smuggling. We call on member states to join us in committing
ourselves fully by sending immigration experts to Europol to increase the
exchange of intelligence (for example, against gangs involved in
trafficking women) and develop a more tactical focus to identify
operational targets. We plan to have our own experts in place within four
months. Push for tough EU-wide penalties for human trafficking and for
transporting illegal immigrants. It is essential that we show both
traffickers and carriers transporting illegal immigrants that we mean
business. So, we will work for the introduction of tough European
penalties by the summer. Building on current discussions at EU level, to
consider further initiatives in an EU framework to strengthen member state
co-operation in the fight against illegal immigration, the trafficking of
human beings as well as on border control, to be adopted, if necessary, by
enhanced co-operation. These actions will build on the co-operation to
combat illegal immigration that EU leaders have called for in the past (at
summits in Tampere, Feira and Nice). They will also build on the historic
Zagreb summit last November, where leaders from the region agreed to
enhance co-operation to target organised crime, including illegal
immigration. We believe that reinforced EU-level action, driven by Italy
and the UK, will make a significant impact on the trafficking of people,
reducing the horror and suffering it produces. To this end, we plan to
work together closely in forthcoming EU and G7/8 discussions. Italy and
the UK also believe that the efficient control of frontiers and firm
action against illegal immigration and human trafficking must be balanced
by a debate about the benefits migration can bring. The European
Commission's recent communication on common immigration policies will be a
useful stimulus to further discussion of how best to manage migration
consistent with the economic, social, and cultural growth of member
states. The UK and Italy are committed to listening and contributing to a
comprehensive public debate on immigration. The debate should focus, not
only on the repression of criminal activity connected with immigration,
but also on supporting appropriate opportunities, where in the economic
and national interest, for legal migration into a diverse and
tolerantsociety. 

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