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The European Union Encourages the Detention of Immigrants.

Translated Saturday 26 January 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

The member states of the European Union have widely varying policies regarding undocumented immigrants. Some detain them systematically while others do not, some limit detention to 32 days, while others have unlimited detention.

Last November the humanitarian organization Médecins du monde visited Malta and published a damning report on the fate of immigrants in the island’s detention centers, where the authorities systematically detain them until their identity is established and their demand for asylum has been examined. Malta represents the extreme among the immigration policies adopted by the different European governments, as it applies a detention policy whose upper limit is 18 months. Most immigrants are detained for practically a year in conditions which the non-governmental organization described as “deplorable.” Médecins du monde condemned the over-population and lack of privacy, hygiene and activity in the Maltese detention centers. The case of Malta alone should plead in favor of forbidding the confinement of immigrants on the sole grounds of their status, a practice which various associations have condemned as “a policy of managing immigration flow.”

Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain – all of which are Mediterranean countries – practice a similar policy of systematic confinement in conditions which the non-governmental organizations regularly condemn. In general, the legal period of detention for undocumented immigrants varies from one country to another. It is limited to 32 days in France, 40 in Spain, 60 in Italy, three months in Greece, while there is no maximum limit in Sweden or Great-Britain. “These differences are no reason to support the directive, which will establish detention as a ‘norm’ and will make countries whose maximum period of detention is lower appear to be lenient,” a representative of the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights insisted. As to forbidding entry to a country, a measure which the planned directive also provides for, it already exists in Poland, Germany and Spain.

Even more insidiously, the European Union is at the same time encouraging the creation of detention camps outside its borders. Such camps already exist in Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Turkey, Moldavia, and the Ukraine.

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