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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Human trafficking an EU problem - Hain
Illegal immigrants
The rise of the far right may prompt action
Tough procedures to tackle human trafficking should be adopted by European nations as part of a common EU policy on immigration, according to Peter Hain.

The Europe minister is pressing for a series of EU-wide measures just a day after Tony Blair and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Marie Aznar, urged moves to tackle illegal immigration.


However strong our border controls, we need the help of the countries around us

Peter Hain

The call by the two prime ministers came in response to the electoral success of the anti-immigration far-right parties in parts of Europe.

In a speech in Birmingham on Tuesday, Mr Hain advocated greater co-operation across the EU over issues like immigration.

Tougher measures were needed to protect children from sex offenders, including the adoption of the UK's policy of forcing sex offenders to register themselves.

The speech follows Monday's Downing Street meeting between Mr Blair and Mr Aznar whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

'Pressing issue'

Mr Aznar said the EU's external borders had to be tightened and people-traffickers targeted. Aid could be withheld from non-EU countries that did not co-operate.

Peter Hain
Mr Hain was making a speech to police and businessmen
Mr Blair called asylum "one of the most pressing issues of our time" - but insisted he was not advocating a "fortress Europe".

The two men want asylum to top the agenda at next month's European summit in Seville.

European leaders agreed an action plan on asylum three years ago but the recent success of far-right parties has pushed the issue back into the limelight.

Mr Hain said co-operation between EU states was essential in order to avoid the "dangerous scapegoating, racism and populism" by far-right politicians like Jean Marie Le Pen in France.

Root causes

"However strong our border controls, we need the help of the countries around us," he said.

That help was needed to prevent abuse of asylum procedures and stop illegal immigrants from reaching Britain in the first place.

Organising the return of failed asylum seekers also needed co-operation, said Mr Hain.

The minister also argued that the EU's collective influence could help develop effective policies to tackle the root causes of mass migration.

Mr Hain later told BBC Radio 4's World At One that centre left governments in Europe now realised the need to tackle immigration issues head on.

Fortress Europe?

"I don't accept that the Right should have been able to hijack these daily issues of security from terrorism, from organised crime, from drug trafficking, from human trafficking."

Those were problems that concerned people across the political spectrum, argued Mr Hain.

The minister insisted Labour Party members would not recoil from the tough approach on those issues now signalled by the government.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said his party had long urged speedy moves towards a shared European asylum policy.

But he warned: "Nothing must undermine our legal and moral duty to provide asylum to those who need it.

"Nothing justifies a fortress Britain or fortress Europe and we must never deceive ourselves that we do not need continuing immigration into Britain for the sake of our economy."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Anderson
"Centrists and moderates are being forced to radically alter their political agendas"
Home Office minister Angela Eagle
"The important thing is to ensure we can police the outer borders of the EU"
Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin
"The urgent necessity is to get a bilateral agreement with France"

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21 May 02 | UK Politics
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