The drive to manage illegal immigration will be one of the UK`s priorities for its six-month presidency of the European Union, the country announced 26 May.

    Charles Clarke, the UK`s home secretary, outlined plans to sign agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Morocco and China to take back migrants who have entered the EU illegally. He said that in exchange for taking back migrants, the countries could look forward to “strong and stable” relations with the EU.

    The European Commission has already completed readmission negotiations with Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Macao and Albania.

    By setting out efforts to address illegal immigration, the UK is touching on one of the most important debates in the EU, which is seeking to forge common policies on immigration and asylum.

    Clarke said he hoped the readmission negotiations could be extended to Pakistan, China and Turkey, although a deal was unlikely during the British presidency, starting in July.

    The UK also wants to push ahead with “regional protection programmes” to help countries which struggle to deal with migrants who come from or pass through their territory.

    The proposals, which are due in July, are likely to focus on sub-Saharan African countries, offering help developing legal systems, document and border security, training in managing migration flows and education and health facilities., 27 May 2005

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