Six EU governments and Canada vowed Monday to boost cooperation in cracking down on illegal immigration, led by Italy and France, who has drawn criticism for deporting Roma minorities.
Officials agreed to seek "accelerated procedures" for dealing with people whose requests for asylum or immigration have been refused, said French Immigration Minister Eric Besson. "We must join in new cooperation in the fight against irregular immigration," Besson told a news conference after hosting the meeting, held ahead of an EU ministerial conference in Brussels on Sept. 13-14.
Besson was flanked by Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni as well as his Canadian counterpart Jason Kenney and junior ministers from Greece, Britain, Germany and Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
The French government has drawn criticism from U.N. experts and human rights groups for clearing Roma from camps and deporting them to EU members Romania and Bulgaria as part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's law and order drive.
Maroni's party, the anti-immigrant Northern League which is a pillar of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition, has praised France's expulsion of Roma as a model to follow.