PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SOME 130,000 Filipinos who have been illegally staying in Europe will be jailed for 18 months pending deportation once the European Union’s new migration policy is signed into law.
During the first reading by the full Parliament on Wednesday, a compromise was reached between Parliament negotiators and the EU Council on the directive on the return of illegal immigrants.
This legislation, which is a step towards a European immigration policy, will encourage the voluntary return of illegal immigrants but otherwise lay down minimum standards for their treatment.
In a statement, the EU Parliament said the draft directive was adopted under the co-decision procedure by 369 votes to 197, with 106 abstentions.
“The House approved the compromise amendments tabled by the EPP-ED group. Other amendments, by the PES, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups, seeking to make the legislation more favorable to individuals who are the subject of an expulsion order, were thrown out, as was a proposal to reject the directive outright, which was tabled by the last two groups,” the statement said.
It noted that the purpose of the legislation is to lay down EU-wide rules and procedures on the return of illegal immigrants.
The measure covers periods of custody as well as re-entry bans but also includes a number of legal safeguards.
Member States will be banned from applying harsher rules to illegal immigrants but allowed to keep or adopt more generous rules.
“In any case, this EU legislation applies only after a decision has been taken by the national authorities to deport an illegal immigrant: each Member State retains the power to decide in the first place whether it wishes to regularize or deport the immigrant,” it said.
There are about 12 million overstaying foreigners in EU countries, mostly from the Philippines, Latin American states, China and Ukraine. A large concentration of illegal Filipino migrants are in France, Italy and Britain.
Under the adopted legislative text, the deportation decision is immediately followed by a voluntary departure period, limited to between seven and thirty days.
If the deportee does not leave, a removal order will be issued. If the removal order is issued by a judicial authority which believes the individual in question might abscond, the person can be placed in custody.
“At present detainees can be held indefinitely in some Member States, but the directive lays down a maximum period of custody of six months, which can be extended by a further 12 months in certain cases,” the statement said.
If a person is placed in custody following an administrative decision, the decision must be approved by the courts “as speedily as possible”.
A re-entry ban will apply for five years maximum if the person is deported after the voluntary return period has expired, or longer if the individual represents a serious threat to public safety. However, Member States retain the right to waive, cancel or suspend such bans.
Once the directive is adopted, member states will have two years to bring it into effect. EU ministers have to approve the agreement officially at a Council meeting in July.