Europe may limit influx of migrants

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The Independent Online
THE European Community is to take urgent steps to stem the inflow of immigrants, after warnings that German political stability is at stake and Saturday night's confrontations between police and neo-Nazis in London. As part of a plan to defuse the immigration issue, the EC will spend dollars 1 billion (pounds 520m) on Bosnian refugees this winter. Interior ministers will also discuss further steps to deter illegal immigration on Friday, it was announced at a meeting of EC foreign ministers in Hertfordshire yesterday.

By contrast, no action against the spread of right-wing extremism was announced and none was planned, said an official.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said that large-scale migration was 'one of the most serious problems, perhaps the most serious problem' for Europe. Britain had faced 'a very considerable commotion' in the 1960s over immigration, he said. 'We've dealt with that problem and we don't wish to see it return.'

The immigration issue is at the top of the political agenda in many EC countries, particularly Germany. At yesterday's informal meeting, the German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, made an urgent plea for assistance. Germany already hosts 220,000 refugees from the former Yugoslavia. The government has appeared virtually powerless against attacks by neo-Nazis on refugee hostels, especially in former East Germany.

French and Belgian ministers also asked for action to be taken. In France the National Front is on the rise, and immigration has been an element in opposition to the Maastricht treaty. In Belgium, the racist Vlaams Blok made big gains in elections this year.

The first target of EC policy is the upsurge in those fleeing the former Yugoslavia. Between September and April, the EC proposes spending dollars 1bn on housing, food, education and assistance in the warring republics. There are predictions that a million more might flee the former Yugoslavia this winter. Mr Hurd yesterday reiterated Britain's belief that Yugoslav refugees should be kept as close to their homes as possible, though he said Britain would take some 'special categories', such as the old and infirm.

German suggestions that other EC states should take more refugees have been rejected. The issue will resurface on Friday when interior ministers hold a meeting in Brussels, chaired by Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary.