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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
EU chiefs to discuss asylum camps
By Tim Franks
BBC Europe correspondent

Boatload of migrants at Lampedusa, 16 Aug 04
Hundreds of migrants have arrived at Lampedusa this month
European justice and home affairs ministers are to begin discussions on whether asylum seekers could be processed outside the European Union.

Germany is expected to revisit the idea of transit camps, first proposed by the UK government 15 months ago.

Back then, Germany, among others, gave the plan an icy reception.

But now German diplomats say something simply has to be done about the large numbers of people risking their lives to cross by sea from Africa to Italy.

The idea is to have processing centres, possibly in countries such as Tunisia or Libya, where asylum-seekers could go in the first place, or be taken to after being picked up on the high seas.

Legal problems

That is different from the original UK proposal - which had been to remove at least some asylum-seekers within the European Union to these camps.

Still though, opposition to any such plan is likely to be intense.

Many countries within the EU are sceptical, as are organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International.

They say that the camps would face insurmountable financial, logistical and legal problems.

The two-day meeting starts on Thursday.

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