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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
EU 'transit camp' plan: Your views
A would-be immigrant gives his thumb up as he sits in the port of Lampedusa island, Italy. Some 160 would-be immigrants (Bangladesh and Pakistan) reached the Italian shores via northern Africa
European Union ministers are discussing a plan to process asylum seekers in so-called "transit camps" outside the block.

Processing centres could be set up, especially in North Africa, for would-be immigrants to go to have their cases considered.

The centres will also accommodate those caught crossing into the EU illegally.

However the UN refugee agency says it is unclear if such a system could guarantee people's basic rights and that camps will experience financial, logistical and legal problems.

Could this stop illegal immigration? Do you support or oppose this plan? Send us your reasons using the postform.

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Too little, too late. The United Nations stated in 1951 that refugees (as they were called then) should seek refuge in the first safe country they came to. Have all the asylum seekers in the UK flown here directly from their country of origin? If not, why haven't they claimed asylum in any of the safe, democratic countries they have passed through on their way to the UK? The simple answer is that Britain is seen as a "soft touch". These people are not asylum seekers, they're asylum shoppers with an eye for the main chance. They should be returned to the country they were in immediately prior to entering the UK.
John, Edinburgh, Scotland

If I was living with the grinding poverty, hunger, disease, brutal dictatorship and hopelessness present in so many African countries, I would also try to get into Europe. Let's have some humanity here! After all, many of the problems are of our own making. We do very well, thank you, selling arms to various unsavoury governments and propping up dictatorships to allow western companies to exploit the oil/mineral wealth of the third world. If the west spent just a small percentage of its defence budget on a fight against injustice and poverty, both the number of people attempting to emigrate to the west and the number of people supporting terror against the west would drop dramatically.
Michael Williamson, Leipzig, Germany (Brit. ex pat.)

The UK will continue to have problems because it is seen worldwide as a soft touch. Once you gain access there is little chance of being deported. The UK does not choose its migrants they deposit themselves on the UK and become migrants whose welfare, health and extended families are then placed on the backs of the taxpayer. Because the Parliament and the courts seem incapable of dealing with the problem on British soil an offshore solution seems the only way. It is worth remembering that this it is not only third world countries that abuse the British system, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans etc have been doing it for generations whilst single-mindedly protecting their own shores and imposing very strict visa regimes on British citizens.
Graham Casey, Australia

Sounds to me like a clever ploy to keep the oppressed poor where we can exploit them more effectively
Duncan King, Edinburgh, UK
This is possibly the most disgusting proposal I've heard on the subject. Asylum is a right, not a privilege, and we often bear the responsibility of having supported the very regimes that these people are (justifiably) fleeing. Also, it's worth bearing in mind that North Africa is not a region known for its respect of human rights. Sounds to me like a clever ploy to keep the oppressed poor where we can exploit them more effectively.
Duncan King, Edinburgh, UK

If these people are genuinely fleeing persecution in fear of their lives, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, then a holding camp would be luxury by comparison. I'd rather sleep in a room with three strangers and share a bathroom than wonder if every bump outside was the secret police coming to take me away.
John B, UK

I wish people would stop mixing up asylum seekers and immigrants. The former have little choice, the latter have a lot. However, immigrants posing as asylum seekers is all too common, leaving the needy at risk from the actions of the greedy.
Martin, England, UK

No, this is not going to stop illegal immigration. All this does is put them somewhere after the fact. Tighten up the borders. That is the only way to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Send illegal immigrants back to where they came from immediately, no questions asked. That will deter future illegals. Why have laws if we do not expect people to follow them?
Emily, Sheffield, UK

We don't need new initiatives - we just need to enforce existing immigration law
Kevin T, Alton, UK
We don't need new initiatives - we just need to enforce existing immigration laws... something that this government and our hopeless civil service have utterly failed at...
Kevin T, Alton, UK

Of course it won't stop immigration. People who are willing to risk their live by crossing the desert and Mediterranean sea, will not be stopped by these camps. Fort Europe is closing the gates and passes the problem on to poorer countries. A better solution would be to modernise the Geneva Convention (1948!) Now we just push it as far as we can from our bed so we don't have to know.
Leen, Ghent, Belgium

Economic migration has been going on since Homo Sapiens evolved in Africa and started inhabiting the planet. With birth rates in the UK and Europe not even reaching replacement needs, maybe we need these migrants! Or start producing our own replacements, so to invest in future.
John Ogden, Paris France

It is time for Europe to stand firm on this issue. If the asylum seekers are in proven fear for their lives, then we have a duty to help them. We do not have a duty or responsibility to help illegal immigrants, economic immigrants or immigrants who have decided that our 'grass is greener'. Where these people do not meet the correct criteria then they should be immediately returned to their places of birth. I believe that we are a kind, largely tolerant and certainly over generous peoples, and that basically we have been taken for 'mugs' for far to long. Politicians take note, speak to the vast majority of silent people and you will find that this is a true reflection of this issue.
Noel Crump, Daventry, England

Excellent idea. Something absolutely has to be done to stem the flow of immigrants, specifically illegal ones. We cannot go on like this indefinitely. My only concern is that the human rights lawyers are probably already rubbing their hands together as I'm typing this, imagining all the lovely cash they'll rake in.
Nicky Flatt, Pinner, UK

I'd rather have 100 working immigrants than 1 native scrounging benefit chaser
Paul Weaver, London, UK
Nothing wrong with immigration, as long as the immigrants come, get a job, and pay taxes. I'd rather have 100 working immigrants than 1 native scrounging benefit chaser.
Paul Weaver, London, UK

Please you people, you should let us come to Europe in order to have a better life. We are in hell. Africa is on fire now. We black Africans love Europeans and we do pray to reach Europe one day!
Gambo Hassan Adamu, Abuja, Nigeria

To Gambo Hassan Adamu Re: "you should let us come to Europe in order to have a better life." Why "should" Europe? Is it our responsibility? Living in Europe is not a world wide right. Entry should be based on either clear humanitarian grounds or some legitimate point system. Running Polish language courses in Krakow, Poland I have been bombarded with dozens of emails from your Nigerian compatriots trying to get into the EU via Poland.
Piotr R, Krakow, Poland

People who break the law should be rejected immediately
Richard Read, London, UK
We should welcome legal economic migrants but people entering the country illegally should be immediately deported to their country of origin unless they declare themselves at their port of entry. I have a lot of time for people who want to work, but people who break the law should be rejected immediately.
Richard Read, London, UK

No, no, no. Germany and Britain with its history of setting up 'camps' should know better. I am a professional who grew up, lived and has legally worked in many countries on three continents. A country cannot accept just the skilled without the unskilled workers. Nobody is borne a skilled worker. If we only accept the skilled workers, we are in effect gutting third world economies and reducing their development ability. Developed nations need to resist narrow domestic industrial and commercial interest groups to take an enlightened self-interest policy approach in their dealings with developing nations, not only to reduce poverty and illegal immigration, but also for their own economic and political interests.
Oliver, London, UK

There's never going to be a perfect outcome to this problem -all we can hope for is to find the least worst solution. Humanely managed, properly funded, and closely overseen by sensible observers, this idea might just strike a tolerable balance between the needs of the migrants and the fears of the likely recipient countries. And remember, the usual hysteria about the rest of Europe ganging up on poor little Britain doesn't apply here. Other EU states have got a problem just as intractable as ours.
Andrew, South London

I have no problem with economic migration when it is for the good
Ian, Angus, Scotland
I think there should be a point system. I have no problem with economic migration when it is for the good. I would like to see more being done to fill our skills shortages from within like bringing back apprenticeship schemes but why not let those who can contribute and have the skills we need into the EU. As for Asylum seekers, I'm sure fleeing persecution, torture, rape and death, that a couple of months in a transit camp is a price worth paying to gain their freedom.
Ian, Angus, Scotland

Interesting how this subject seems to bring out some of the non-thinkers of the country, isn't it? 'Stop all of them...', 'Close the doors now...', 'Fill in the Tunnel' indeed... what a splendidly English reaction from some people.
Jamie, Reading, UK

On one hand as long as desperate people have dreams of a better life they will do whatever it takes to get out of their situation as soon as possible. On the other hand we have to face the fact that there is an industry smuggling people - into the developed world. A transit camp would be a nice thing, but what plans the EU has to tackle human trafficking?
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

The best thing is to make N Africa prosperous enough so people do not bother travelling any further north. We can start by using the money paid to Eurocrats for clean water and education.
Tim, London

The best asylum policy is a foreign policy that does not create thousands of genuine political asylum seekers in the first place. For example:- There is evidence that the Ukrainian regime is preparing to fix the upcoming elections to stay in power. If the elections were free and fair, Ukrainians would vote for change, thereby ensuring the survival of Ukrainian democracy. If the election result is disputed, there could be a violent conflict between the regime's forces and thousands of protesters. Yet the EU and USA can't even be bothered to send enough international election observers to monitor the election properly. The cost of sending them is negligible compared with the cost of not sending them: from care and subsistence for the asylum seekers, to the catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and the rest of Europe.
Philip Giddings, Bournemouth

Illegal entrants will always be a problem
Raymond Rudaizky, London U.K.
I find these "transit camps" a hideous suggestion. Asylum seekers are better off applying from the countries where they live. Illegal entrants will always be a problem and a quick decision should made whether to accept them or send them back to their countries of origin. Whilst their case is being considered they should be entitled to humane treatment, irrespective of cost.
Raymond Rudaizky, London U.K.

Forget transit camps, the whole asylum system has failed! Why not just let the people who want to work in Europe and the UK come in on easy-to-get work permits. They can then send the money home and are empowered to go home and of course return to the UK for more work should they wish. Families aren't destroyed, the people traffickers are sidelined. We end up with a system that works! This concept worked for Germany in the 60s and 70s and fuelled Turkey's financial expansion and development, something that wouldn't have happened but for the remittances sent back by Turkish guest workers!
Simon Mallett, UK, Maidstone

Most illegal immigrants are economic migrants who would have every reason to expect that their application will be rejected. True asylum seekers would not feel safe until they are on European soil and will prefer to take their chances of being forced to return after appeals rather than waiting to be allowed to go. I don't think this idea will work.
Mark, USA

Let's hope this closes all the loopholes once and for all
Andy D, Oxford, UK

In a week when the Ghurkhas have had to fight for their right to settle in the UK having provided years of loyal service, I am glad to hear that steps may at last be taken to stop the flow of illegal/economic immigration, welfare tourism and bogus asylum-seeking. If only Blair's crew had had the political will/initiative to deal with this issue years ago! Let's hope this closes all the loopholes once and for all.
Andy D, Oxford, UK

It's probably time we think about creating a "European immigration tax" to fund such camps. If funds are available then the project will be viable.
Wendy, UK

To Wendy, UK: You are welcome to pay for it, but I pay enough tax as it is. I certainly don't want to spend my money on such as wasted cause. Stop all of them coming in.
Alan, Wimbledon, London

I would have thought that illegal immigration would get worse under this scheme. Rather than risk the prospect of having an application rejected at an African transit camp I expect more will opt to get to the UK by other means.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

I think the whole idea is a disgrace. We haven't managed to find a system to deal with these people effectively, compassionately and humanely on our own turf so what, we sub-contract the job out to a country or countries conveniently unfettered by European human rights laws?
Alison, Athens (ex UK)

This is a disgusting proposal. We're talking about human beings here, people like us who've had to flee their homes due to war or persecution. Will we put children in these camps too? The elderly? The sick? Some day in the not-too-distant future we in Europe will look back with shame on how we treated refugees, especially since many or most come from countries we helped to bomb.
Ben Drake, York, UK

At last some positive action. Anything that keeps them out of the UK has got to be a good thing. At least they won't be able to disappear when their unfounded claims are rejected.
Keith, UK

It's difficult to predict whether this idea will have any benefits for anyone, or whether it will just muddy the waters and create another layer of red tape (if existing measures/controls are ineffective then they should be reviewed/replaced). How much will all this cost the UK, and aren't there higher priorities?
Andy, Cheshire, UK

Too many people slip through the net once they get here
Iain Hicken, Swindon

I support this idea fully. The overriding asylum problem we have in this country is that too many people slip through the net once they get here, principally the ones who shouldn't be allowed in. Adding this type of vetting will help those who truly need asylum to get it.
Iain Hicken, Swindon, England

Never mind "transit camps", just close the doors to asylum seekers. Hard it may be, but everywhere around the world there are despotic regimes and we can't save everyone. If we try to destroy despotic regimes we are attacked, if we let asylum seekers in we are criticised at how we treat them, despite the massive increase in crime around all these camps. Close the doors now, and let the rest of the world sort out its own problems.
Chris, UK

I come from a part of the EU where corpses keep landing on the beaches (the Gibraltar Straits). What I do not understand is that, although it is evident that we need younger blood in the European economy due to our ageing population, the present laws (Schengen treaty) still criminalise people that just want a fair chance to work, pay taxes and live like human beings. Concentration camps (whatever the name the EU calls them) is not an answer. Papers for all is the only way out.
Raul Pinto, High Wycombe, England (Ex Spain)

This "transit camp" proposal reminds me of a new US policy to green-card "illegal" Mexican immigrants that make it over the border. In my opinion, if the illegal immigration will continue no matter what is done, governments might as well come to terms and take up the opportunity to better organize it.
Sean, Connecticut, USA

As soon as the illegal trade becomes non-profitable the immigrants themselves will be helped
Phill C, Sheffield, UK

The UK should help people seeking a better life. As soon as the illegal trade becomes non-profitable the immigrants themselves will be helped and the only way to do this is to relax border controls. Let them in and train them up. Then charge them as much as our government does to its own nationals. Once word gets back about how bad UK treats immigrants then they won't come. I know about what I'm saying because my fiancée is Chinese, and most of our friends have come here legally to pay for study but they still get all the racist abuse and discrimination from our own government.
Phill C, Sheffield, UK

Impose massive fines (like seizing assets and property) on those who employ illegal immigrants. If you cut off the source of funding then they are less likely to come here because they cannot earn money. The knock on effect of this is that it keeps the workforce local to the population rather than diluting it with transient workers.
Roger Jones, Cardiff, Wales

Any camp where people are to be held that have done no wrong is in itself wrong. This will not stop the illegal immigration because the people will still come to Europe because it is better then in their homelands.
Frank, Germany

Excellent idea - hopefully it will stop the flood of migrants to Europe and sort out the genuine cases from the non-genuine one.
Roshini, UK

This solution will only work if a sufficient amount of manpower and funds are allocated
Daniel Curwood, UK

This solution will only work if a sufficient amount of manpower and funds are allocated. You have to catch many of the illegal immigrants first, many of which escape into the EU and are unheard of again. There will need to be extra policing for such a system to work so that there is less scope for them to disappear through the net. The likelihood is as with other EU ideas, that an insufficient amount of funding and manpower will be allocated and thus this idea will probably turn out to be as much use as a chocolate teapot.
Daniel Curwood, Annesley Woodhouse, UK

No. For the simple reason that if people find out what the criteria is to come into the UK - for instance - they will - or gangs - will begin falsifying papers that prove their case. The only initiative would be for the UN to look at each countries infrastructure and help build those countries back to prosperity. Then there will be no reason to come.
Jay, England

Clearly something must be done to combat this huge problem that we face, however I am not sure this will work because many would be immigrants know they will be rejected if they try the legitimate route so will recourse to any means to achieve their goal. Give it a try though.
Chris Green, Hagley, Worcs, England

As long as they are processed back to where they came from it's a good idea.
Les, Morpeth, England

Do we really need more asylum seekers in this country? Have we not done enough to help these people, this time we should halt all illegal immigration. And deport those who are here illegal has soon has we can and send a clear message. Legal in and illegal out.
Bumble, Dartford, UK

It will not stop illegal immigration at all. The most positive method of containing immigration is to close borders and introduce visa control. No visa - no entry. 90% of all illegals are economic migrants, not political, and these are the ones that have to be controlled. I oppose the plan, because there are 215,000 illegals in this country who have not been returned, due to government failures to address immigration.
J Evans, Brighton, UK

I'm all for it. It might not be all that comfortable whilst their cases are considered, but if they are genuine asylum seekers then it's likely to be much better than whatever they're seeking asylum from. And for this same reason, might go some way to reducing bogus asylum seekers.
Joseph, UK

I think that a silent, embarrassed majority in Europe simply want less immigration whatever the motivation or justice of the case, and these plans will help towards this aim.
Christian Tiburtius, Reading, UK

Reinstating proper border controls, patrolling the Channel and filling in the Tunnel would be a better idea.
Julian, South England


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