Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Leaders attending an Argentine summit of South American trade bloc Mercosur are expected to strongly criticize new European Union immigration laws
A directive passed by the EU could see illegal immigrants detained for up to 18 months and if expelled they face a five-year ban on re-entry. There are hundreds of thousands of South Americans working in EU countries, many of them illegally. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has called the EU measures "shameful". The Bolivian leader, Evo Morales, said they did nothing to combat discrimination and racism, while Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said the region did not accept the concept of migration as a crime. South American leaders often find it difficult to reach agreement on many things but they appear to be united in their anger at the new EU immigration rules. Most of South America's leaders are in the Argentine city of Tucuman where their summit plans to issue a declaration condemning the EU measures. The law will oblige EU members to choose between issuing residency permits to the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants who enter each year, or returning them to their country of origin. Under the new rules, an illegal immigrant can be detained for a maximum of six months. This period is extendable by a further 12 months under certain conditions if, for example, the immigrant fails to co-operate with the authorities. The rules allow for a 30-day voluntary departure period for illegal immigrants before their expulsion. Once expelled, they may be barred from re-entering the EU for a five-year period.