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New Migration Model

DW staff (jam)October 27, 2006

French and German interior ministers have proposed a new EU migration policy from the European Union's six largest countries. The plan would allow migrants from non-EU country to work in the EU for a limited time.

Would-be immigrants arrive on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife
Would-be immigrants arrive on the Spanish Canary Island of TenerifeImage: AP

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy proposed that a common immigration policy should be created for the European Union at an informal meeting Thursday in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The proposal aims to create an EU asylum authority and open up the EU's labor market to temporary guest workers.

Under the proposal, workers from poor countries could live in EU countries for three to four years, transfer money to their home countries and return with newly acquired skills, Schäuble said.

The idea of such "circular migration" originates with the United Nations and aims to combine migration with development policy.

Frankreich illegale Einwanderung Einbürgerung
The new plan aims to curb illegal migration to the EUImage: AP

At the end of last year, a report by the Global Commission on International Migration found the number of migrants around the world had risen to 200 million. The report counted people who lived in a foreign country for more than one year and included 9.2 million refugees. In 1972, the number of migrants worldwide was 82 million.

The report estimated that migrants sent $150 billion (118 billion euros) to their families in their home countries in 2004 and that in many countries, without foreign workers, entire economic sectors would collapse.

EU adoption

British, Italian and Spanish Polish interior ministers approved the proposal, which would have to be expanded and streamlined with a view to being adopted by the EU Council of Ministers at the EU summit in December.

Einwanderung Passkontrolle p178
EU immigration controlImage: AP

Schäuble and Sarkozy had also proposed that national immigration quotas be registered with Brussels, which would enable the EU to repatriate illegal immigrants to their countries of origin more easily.

"There are voices around this table from the right and from the left who are united in seeing the subject of immigration not as a thing of politics but of human drama," Sarkozy said.

German skepticism

German politicians, however, expressed skepticism about the "circular migration" idea. The internal affairs spokesperson for the Social Democrats (SPD), Dieter Wiefelspütz, told the Berliner Zeitung daily that current rules were sufficient.

"I can't see any need for temporary guest workers," he said, referring to Germany's 4 million unemployed.

Spanien verstärkt Melilla-Grenze
Spain has seen an increase in illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan AfricaImage: dpa

The spokesperson for migration issues from the free-market liberal FDP party, Sibylle Laurischk, called the suggestion "naïve."

"Evidently, they've forgotten the lessons from the 1960's," she told the paper, referring to a period then Germany brought many Turkish guest workers into the country. Many of them stayed despite the government's intention that they would return home after several years of work.

The interior ministers of Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland were taking part in the two-day meeting, which began Wednesday with discussions on a joint policy to combat terrorism. This so-called G6 was set up by Britain and France in 2003 to provide an informal way for big EU countries to discuss issues of law and order and immigration.

Interior ministers also pledged to share more information about future terrorist threats and to fight EU value-added-tax fraud.