Conservatives MEPs act to protect immigration borders

06-Feb-2013 @ 15:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs today helped to vote through a key package of measures which will help to strengthen Europe's borders against illegal immigration and make it easier for Britain to send asylum seekers back to their point of entry to the EU.

The measures were approved by a majority of the European Parliament sitting in Strasbourg.

Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on Home Affairs, said: "Far from encouraging asylum seekers or racking up costs to taxpayers, this vote will make Europe's borders stronger against illegal immigration at what are currently its weakest points. There will be not a penny in extra cost to European taxpayers, but it will ultimately mean that more asylum-seekers currently in Britain get returned to the country where they first entered the EU."

The vote approved a proposal from the Commission to relax stipulations on match-funding which if they stayed in place would stop cash-strapped Mediterranean States accessing the External Borders Fund, which helps them fight illegal immigration and deal efficiently and fairly with asylum seekers. Because of the economic crisis, some EU countries have found themselves unable to meet rigorous match-funding conditions to access their share of EU-funded projects and programmes. That has created a real danger that key projects would be stopped altogether. The Parliament approved the Commission's proposal which allows for increased co-financing rates.

Mr Kirkhope said: "Critics should have realised the change is budget-neutral and for only one year.  It will merely require impoverished Member States to lay out less money themselves - and these are the very member states where Europe's immigration defences are, unfortunately, most porous."

Conservative MEPs believe the funding will be crucial for Greece - and indirectly for the UK.  At the moment the Dublin Agreement - which says asylum seekers in any EU state should always be returned to the state where they first arrived in the EU - has been suspended in the case of Greece (by a ruling of the European Court of Justice) because facilities and structures for handling asylum cases there are inadequate.

Greece is a common route into Europe for both asylum seekers and for illegal immigrants.

Mr Kirkhope said:  "In the long run our vote should help Greece get its house in order and enable Britain to start returning asylum seekers there.

"This scheme is about stopping illegal immigration at the very root by protecting the EU's external border."

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