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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK

World: Europe

Crackdown on European migrants

Boatloads of Kurdish refugees arrived in Italy in 1997

An international conference in Hungary on illegal migration has approved measures to tighten border controls across Europe.

The moves are designed to counter the increasing professionalism of criminal gangs involved in smuggling migrants.

[ image: Rescuing refugees abandoned by an Italian crew]
Rescuing refugees abandoned by an Italian crew
Delegates from more than 30 countries who had gathered in Hungary's capital, Budapest, agreed on new co-operation between eastern and western Europe.

Police from countries in eastern and southern Europe, - so-called 'transit states' through which most illegal migrants pass - should get more help with training and technology from 'target states' - countries further west where the migrants generally end up.

To this end, participants in the conference agreed to establish mobile patrols which could surprise immigrant "carriers", including airlines which do not properly check travel papers.

Fines and other penalties for traffickers will be increased, but details of the sizes of fines have not yet been worked out.

Immigration agencies of EU and non-EU states are to work more closely, and border controls and visa checks will also be improved.

There has also been agreement on the introduction of more efficient procedures to prosecute and try criminal traffickers and illegal migrants.

But the draft declaration was slightly toned down, with more stress on the rights of asylum seekers.

The delegates said illegal immigration has gone from having a mostly economic or political motive to becoming closely linked to organised criminal activity: drug trafficking, arms smuggling and international trafficking in human beings.

The meeting of the so-called Budapest Process, one of several groups dealing with immigration issues in Europe was convened at three weeks' notice at the instigation of Germany.

The German Interior Minister, Kurt Schelter, said that foreigners were behind two-thirds of the crimes committed by organised gangs there.

He also said that there are currently 800,000 foreigners in Germany without resident status.

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