NEWS

Dramatic appeal on migrants by Barrot

European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot yesterday called on European Union member states to set illegal immigration high on their political agenda, warning of a «dramatic increase» in the influx of undocumented visitors to the bloc and complaining about a lack of EU solidarity on the issue. As Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis prepared for talks today with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, whose country has borne much of the brunt of illegal immigration into Europe, Barrot expressed understanding for the particular problems faced by Mediterranean states. «The mass presence of illegal immigrants and refugees can destabilize countries such as Greece if the EU does not display the required solidarity,» he said. But this support is in short supply, the commissioner conceded, noting that he has been «desperately trying» to push the problem of illegal immigration up the EU agenda but that an absence of «real European solidarity» was proving to be a stubborn barrier to progress. He said he would raise the issue at tomorrow's informal EU summit in Stockholm. Barrot also referred to the political exploitation of the phenomenon of burgeoning migrant flows which has boosted support for far-right parties in several EU member states, including Greece. But the chief risk the commissioner highlighted was the stance of Europe as a whole which he condemned as «shortsighted.» One tactic Barrot proposed, to take some of the heat off Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta, was the «redistribution» of migrants meriting refugee status across member states. Most Scandinavian countries and well-organized states such as Germany are believed to oppose the idea.

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