>The European Immigration Pact, to be launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy, has a good chance of becoming a major success for the French EU Presidency, diplomats say.
>Enjoying a broad consensus among EU countries after having overcome resistance in the European Parliament and benefiting from the recent nomination of a French Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, France is confidently pushing ahead its agenda to bring immigration in Europe under control.
As one diplomat put it, after the comeback of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Sarkozy is no longer even seen as an extremist trying to keep immigrants at bay.
The French minister for immigration and national identity, Brice Hortefeux, has made an unprecedented effort to tour every European capital and sell the French idea of a European Immigration Pact. In his own words, the initiative has received "an excellent welcome", as all countries share the same concerns about migration.
>According to French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, the planned "immigration pact" would rely on three pillars:
・The refusal of 'en masse' regularisations,
・harmonisation of asylum policies and
・rules for the return of illegal immigrants.
>The draft Directive for the return of immigrants is considered to be the backbone of the pact. It stands a good chance of being adopted, since it became clear yesterday (4 June) that a majority of MEPs were in favour of the compromise.
>The procedures, which are still to be formally agreed upon by the Council (EurActiv 25/04/08) provide for a period of "voluntary departure" of illegal immigrants of up to four weeks. If the illegal immigrant does not voluntarily come home during this period, the national authorities can issue a "removal order".
Such removal orders include a re-entry ban of a maximum of five years. Then the countries can use "coercive measures" to carry out the repatriation, usually by air, of illegal immigrants who resist removal.
>When there are serious grounds to believe that illegal immigrants are hiding, EU states have agreed a procedure to keep them under "temporary custody". Such imprisonment should not normally exceed six months and the maximum retention period can be as long as 18 months, according to the draft directive.
>Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) were among the few to criticise the 'Returns Directive'. "By accepting this compromise text, the European Parliament will undermine its own mandate to protect human rights and allow EU law to erode existing international human rights standards," said Nicholas Beger, the director of Amnesty International's EU Office.