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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Straw predicts EU immigration deal
Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Blair was greeted in Seville by fellow EU leaders
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insists a deal can be reached at the EU summit in Seville as the UK softens its proposals for tackling immigration.

Discussions centred on developing a cohesive approach across Europe to dealing with asylum seekers, including demands from Britain and Spain for tougher measures.


I entirely agree with Clare Short when she said it is morally repugnant to hurt the poor of the world in order to get your way with a different policy intent

Jack Straw
A Downing Street proposal to link aid to methods aimed at encouraging poorer countries to play their part in curbing illegal immigration is proving highly controversial.

Critics include France, Sweden and Luxembourg along with the UK's International Development Secretary Clare Short who said it would be "morally repugnant" to penalise the poor.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted that there was no question of cutting aid to poor countries.

"There would be no question at all of hitting the poor," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"That has always been a very clear red line."

"I entirely agree with Clare Short when she said it is morally repugnant to hurt the poor of the world in order to get your way with a different policy intent."

Tight clampdown

In a briefing to journalists as talks continued on Friday afternoon Mr Straw said there was scope for an EU sort of link between aid and countries taking action against people smuggling.

But this would only be if it was targeted against the elites of those countries rather than the poor.

He held up Afghanistan as an example of a country with a constructive approach pointing out they had taken back a million refugees since the war there.

The majority of EU members are in favour of a tight clampdown.

Clare Short
Clare Short called asylum plan a "very silly idea"

At present, the 15 EU states have different rules for how they handle asylum applications.

The need to find a common way of dealing with them has been hastened by an estimated half a million illegal immigrants entering the EU every year.

The issue is also at the forefront of politics across Europe after the recent successes of several far-right parties in national elections.

Europe Minister Peter Hain said the plans were not about punishing poor people.

"Let's work to together with these countries: they accept their international obligations, we give them the support, aid help, trade they need."


I do not think that people are anti-immigration or anti-asylum seeker but they are anti-disorder

Tony Blair

Mr Blair stressed his plans would not run against the "fundamental aim of poverty reduction".

Instead, he said tackling poverty in those countries could persuade the skilled workers necessary for their prosperity against becoming migrants.

Crime gangs

"We want those countries to work with us in partnership in order to tackle what is a common problem," he added.

He warned that failure to agree on action against illegal immigration will play into the hands of extremists.

Ahead of flying to Spain, Mr Blair said that international crime gangs were smuggling people on an unprecedented scale and international co-operation was needed to solve the problem.

"I do not think that people are anti-immigration or anti-asylum seeker but I think they are anti-disorder, they are anti a system that does not appear to have proper rules."

A bigger Europe

Also on the agenda in Seville will be EU enlargement.

Mr Blair says the meeting could begin the "last lap" towards 10 more countries joining the EU in 2004, although there are still serious obstacles.

Major details on farms aid still need to be resolved and many observers believe there will be little more than a further political commitment to enlargement this weekend.

As the Council of Ministers - the group of 15 leaders that forms the EU's main decision making body - meets, Mr Blair will be pressing for reforms in the way it works.

Earlier this year, he joined with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in calling for summits to be shorter, with more focus on strategy and less subjects tackled.

They also pushed for the council meetings to be opened up to the gaze of television cameras.


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21 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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20 Jun 02 | Europe
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