Refugees: Rich bolt the doors

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Rich countries are increasingly worried that too many refugees will come knocking at their doors. Just 10 years ago, when the Iron Curtain was still in place, Western governments could afford to be more generous. Those fleeing persecution had a good chance of being taken in - because so few of them managed to reach the West in the first place.

Now, the open borders of Europe mean things are more porous than ever before. Governments are determined to lock and bolt the doors.

The arrival of hundreds of would-be Kurdish refugees in Italy has led to a remarkably hardline response from those countries that most fear that they will be the Kurds' eventual destination.

Germany has led the chorus of indignation - and has angered refugee organisations. Don Flynn, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, believes that the hullabaloo in Germany is unnecessary: "There's no evidence to suggest that Europe is facing a refugee crisis. This is something which is generated out of election year." He insists that the Italian action in saying it would consider applications from arriving Kurds was "entirely unexceptional".

Mr Flynn was critical, too, of Britain's contribution to the asylum debate. The Home Office said yesterday it had prepared a "draft action plan" for consideration by the EU, to deal with "the serious problem of illegal immigration and organised crime".