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Monday, October 4, 1999 Published at 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK

World: Europe

Call for EU immigration clampdown

Illegal immigrants receive treatment after their truck crashed in Greece on Monday

France, Germany and the UK have demanded that the European Union tightens controls on illegal immigration to allay growing public concern.

Their initiative was announced the day after major electoral gains in Austria by the far-right Freedom party, which campaigned vociferously against the presence of foreigners.

New proposals drawn up by Paris, Berlin and London would set down common rules for accepting refugees fleeing genuine persecution - ensuring that an immigrant or asylum-seeker rejected in one member state is rejected by them all.

[ image: Austrian right-wing leader Joerg Haider took nearly a third of the vote]
Austrian right-wing leader Joerg Haider took nearly a third of the vote
The three powers said they would call on EU members at a summit in Finland in 10 days' time to increase co-operation against organised crime rings dealing in illegal immigrants.

"We can't leave questions of immigration to chance," German Interior Minister Otto Schily told a news conference with his French and British colleagues during a meeting of EU interior and justice ministers in Brussels.

Mr Schily said: "It's a duty of a democratic government to assure the citizens that we are doing everything to stem the flow of illegal immigrants."

"The breaking point has been reached in Germany, we have had enough. Certain layers of society are being directly affected by this," he said.

Oana Lungescu reports from Brussels: "Blueprint for the special summit"
The three countries stressed they were not trying to challenge genuine asylum cases.

UK minister Barbara Roche said the objective of the policy was to clearly separate illegal immigrants from genuine asylum seekers.

"We are not talking about restrictions for restrictions' sake. We have a real problem. There's some very serious organised crime as far as trafficking is concerned," she said.

Under the initiative the EU would control migration flows through

  • a common visa policy
  • effective controls at the EU's external frontiers
  • better cross-border co-operation to counter illegal residence in the member states

French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement - referring to Austria's lurch to the right - said questions should be asked about how a far right party could have done so well in such a prosperous country.

Bid to exclude far-right

"Democratic governments have to fight against the fears, the unjustified fears of the people, they have to pacify those layers of society that are not the richest, not the most prosperous," he said.

The Austrian Chancellor, Viktor Klima, has promised to keep the far-right Freedom Party out of government, despite its dramatic gains in Sunday's general election.

The Freedom Party - whose leader, Joerg Haider, has been accused of Nazi sympathies - came second in the poll, only 6% behind Mr Klima's Social Democrats.

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