Head of Liberal and Democrat group comes out against transit camps for refugees

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Graham Watson MEP, head of the Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and third largest party in the European Parliament, has come out against building transit camps outside the EU to hold refugees and asylum-seekers. On 1 September he told journalists that the group: "have resisted and will continue to resist" these plans.

The idea originally put forward by the UK government and recently backed by Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister. The new Commissioner for "Freedom, Justice and Security", Mr Rocco Buttiglione (from the right-wing Berlusconi government in Italy) has openly backed the idea and spoken of the EU being "swamped", see: New Commissioner for "Justice, Freedom and Security" talks of the EU being "swamped" by immigration "time-bomb".

Graham Watson said that the proposals run counter to the Geneva Convention and: "If Mr Buttiglione chooses the road of confrontation he can expect a rocky ride".

Mr Buttiglione will only take up office as a Commissioner on 1 November after facing questions from the European Parliament which has to agree to the appointment of all new Commissioners.

On 1 September the UNHCR released figures showing that the figures for asylum applications in the industrialised countries were the lowest since 1987.

1. See: euobserver
2. See: UNHCR press release
3. See: UNHCR full report, January-June 2003 (pdf)

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