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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
EU backs African asylum project
By Tim Franks
BBC correspondent in The Hague

Boat arrives at Italian island of Lampedusa
Thousands of migrants from Africa have recently tried to enter Europe
The European Union has agreed to help to finance five United Nations projects inside Africa aimed at dealing with asylum seekers.

Ministers and officials have said they are increasingly concerned about the thousands of migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

But a German plan to process refugees in centres in African countries appeared to win only partial support.

Opponents say the centres could become magnets for traffickers of migrants.

Controversy

On one point, politicians and officials across Europe appear united.

They say something has to be done to deal with the tens of thousands of desperate people who cram themselves into rickety boats on the north African coast and set out across the Mediterranean in an attempt, illegally, to reach European soil.

And so the executive arm of the union, the European Commission, promised on Friday to help fund UN schemes in five north African countries to assist them to deal better with asylum and migration.

Boat arrives in Lampedusa
The Italian island of Lampedusa is a target for illegal immigrants

But where there remains greater controversy is over a German proposal to set up processing centres in Africa for those seeking asylum in Europe.

The Italians are supportive, as are the British.

But some countries, along with humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International, say problems remain.

They argue that the centres could become magnets for traffickers of migrants, in the way that the Sangatte camp was in France - and that it is unclear what legal protection any asylum-seekers may have.





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