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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Europeans join forces on migrants
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso
Ministers for the Group of Five want to control illegal immigration
Five major European countries have agreed to organise joint flights to deport illegal immigrants from the EU.

Interior ministers for the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany - known as the Group of Five - announced the plan at talks in France ahead of the G8 summit.

Ministers hope pooling resources will help Europe beat illegal immigration.

France's Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio that joint naval operations would take place in the Mediterranean to deter people-trafficking from Africa.

Italy, which would carry out the naval surveillance with France and Spain, says rising illegal immigration from North Africa is controlled by organised criminal gangs.

Immigration 'ceiling'

Joint French and Spanish naval operations could also take place in the Atlantic to curb drug trafficking.

Mr Sarkozy said the proposal to operate joint repatriation flights had been put forward by Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso.

The aircraft would tour the five nations to pick up illegal immigrants of the same nationality, then return them to their country of origin.

Such flights could begin within days, Mr Sarkozy said.

The French minister said he had proposed a "ceiling" on the number of immigrants allowed into the G5 nations each year.

"Immigration is not a problem on one condition - that it is controlled," he said.

Mr Sarkozy said the five ministers had also agreed to harmonise terms to ensure that immigrants who are granted permission to stay are allowed to bring their families to join them.

He suggested inviting Poland to join the group of key European nations, in recognition of the enlarged EU of 25 member states.

The G5 was set up in 2003 and is meeting for the eighth time.


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