EU countries agree on illegal immigration issues

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Ministers from five European Union countries agreed on 5 July to collaborate on repatriating illegal immigrants, according to French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

"All together, the European countries, the five big states, we will organize some flights to repatriate illegal immigrants in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, France and Italy," he said.

Home affairs ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain met in the French town of Evian on Lake Geneva, to discuss joint efforts against illegal immigration, the drugs trade, organised crime and human trafficking.

The G5 or "Big 5" - minus partner German interior minister Otto Schily who missed the start of the meeting - agreed to begin fingerprinting visa applicants from countries with a record of high rates of illegal migration and adopt stricter screening at airports.

France, Spain and Italy are also to create joint naval patrols in the Mediterranean to stop boats arriving from northern Africa.

Charles Clarke has proposed G5 countries share the cost of employing "airport liaison officers" in countries to help airline staff identify those travelling on illegal papers.

Separately, the home secretary's own department has been heavily criticised for admitting it could not produce reliable statistics on illegal immigration levels.