>EU rules on illegal migrants anger human rights groups
>After almost three years of tedious negotiations with member states, the European Parliament yesterday (18 June) endorsed new EU-wide rules on returning illegal immigrants back to where they came from. But tough clauses, including permitting the detention of people for up to 18 months before their expulsion, have infuriated human rights groups.
The stakes were high at the plenary vote. If certain last-minute amendments put forward by a number of Socialist MEPs had acquired a majority, the delicate compromise acheived just two weeks ago by national governments and a majority of the political groups in the European Parliament would have been considered dead (EurActiv 17/06/08). This would have further delayed the introduction of EU-wide minimum rules by two or more years before a new compromise could have been reached, MEPs explained.
The vote is considered a significant step towards the establishment of a common EU immigration policy – a goal agreed at the Seville Council back in 2002. Two more directives are also awaiting approval by the Parliament: measures to promote legal immigration by skilled workers (the so-called 'Blue Card' directive) and another directive that would punish employers of illegal immigrants, thus discouraging clandestine work.
The European Parliament has already left a significant mark on the Returns Directive, succeeding in passing 73 amendments to the text originally proposed by the Commission in 2005. Key changes demanded by MEPs include the introduction of additional safeguards and limits to the use of coercive measures.
Yet the final compromise was nevertheless deemed "flawed" by many MEPs from the Socialist Group, the Greens and the small leftist political group GUE/NGL, who refused to support it, saying it breached EU human rights standards.
Despite particular doubts, the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe (ALDE) played a pivotal role in the directive's approval, supporting the compromise in a tight vote, which ended with 369 MEPs in favour, 197 against and 106 abstentions.