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Common principles for immigration and asylum - 17/06/2008

Group of people peering over a wall

10-point strategy adopted to curb illegal immigration and avoid shortages of skilled labour.

Minimising the number of immigrants staying illegally in the EU and ensuring that Europe has enough people of working age are the focus of a new Commission plan setting out common principles for immigration.

Accompanying the proposal is a strategy to bring to an end to the uneven treatment of asylum-seekers across the European Union. The asylum measures aim to uphold and reinforce the Union's humanitarian tradition so that asylum-seekers have access to the same level of protection wherever they are in the EU.

Immigration is a major challenge for the European Union. The commission has long pointed to the possible need for more immigrant labour to support the economy and competitiveness of the EU.The EU has absorbed between 1.5m and 2m immigrants a year since 2002. Most of the recent newcomers have settled in Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Greece. Even with this influx, the working-age population in Europe is expected to decline by almost 50 million by 2060, raising concern that without immigration, EU countries could face severe labour shortages.

The strategy lays out 10 principles to serve as the basis for integrating national policies, grouping them under the issues of prosperity, solidarity and security. They include efforts to step up the fight against illegal immigration and match skills of immigrant workers with the needs of the EU's labour market.

Other goals include enhancing security through visa policy, developing effective return policies, integrating border management and working more closely with countries of origin and transit. The commission also recognised integration as key to successful immigration and called for zero tolerance of human trafficking.

The policy only deals with people from non-EU countries. It would not restrict the movement of EU citizens. Individual EU countries would retain the right to decide how many immigrants to admit.

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