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Europe

Amnesty International Criticizes EU's Immigration Policy

The human rights organization Amnesty International denounced the European Union's policies on asylum-seekers, calling them a lottery for the right to stay in what it has described as Fortress Europe.

The Spanish coast guard transporting rescued African refugees to the Canary Islands

Policies on migration vary across the EU

"Fortress Europe ... is a reality," Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general, said during a press conference in Brussels after talks with EU officials on Tuesday, April 15.

"Access to Europe is very difficult and the initial border of the European Union is being pushed further and further away," she said, pointing to the rescue operations of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, patrols in Senegal and increasing EU cooperation with transit countries.

A German passport in front of an EU

Migration is guided by proximity, policies and opportunities

According to AFP news agency, Khan questioned whether such policies were created to hinder emigrants from embarking on dangerous journeys or to prevent those people from reaching Europe.

In addition, Khan said the European immigration framework was "a lottery" due to the varying policies throughout the 27-nation bloc.

Generalized perception of foreigners

European laws stipulate that immigrants are to be handled in the first EU nation they enter, regardless of their later travels.

Khan said stricter security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States had translated into more problems and difficulties for immigrants in the US and Europe.

"Once the politics of fear take over, then obviously human rights take second place," she said, following discussions with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Kahn said a tendency has developed in Europe to lump all foreigners together -- regardless of their background and status -- and paint them out to be "suspicious" and "dangerous."

Cracking down on immigration

Illegal immigrants and police standing outside a center on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa

Illegal immigrants at a center on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa

On Tuesday, following confirmation of his winning general elections in Italy, prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi vowed to crack down on illegal immigrants. He said that those involved in crime were part of an "army of evil."

Berlusconi, who was swept the election on Sunday and Monday by a solid margin, said Italy would cooperate with its neighbors in "deporting non-EU citizens who are here and do not have work or home and are forced into crime in order to live."

A paper by the European Commission on the EU's asylum policy is due to be published in June.

Legislative proposals could ensue, which could unify policies across the EU and perhaps make the bloc less appealing to prospective asylum-seekers.

France, which will take up the EU's rotating presidency in July, has prioritized immigration. It has a strict asylum policy, expelling foreigners discovered without proper papers.

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