FECL 21 (December 1993/January 1994):


The Fifth Conference of European ministers responsible for migration was held in Athens, on 18-19 November. Delegates from 32 member states of the Council of Europe as well as observers from non-member states, governmental and non-governmental organisations attended the conference. Official press releases from the conference are scanty and say little about the policies discussed at the meeting. The Dutch state-secretary responsible for immigration was more outspoken in an interview with the Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad.

According to official information, the ministers agreed on "the need for a comprehensive approach to migration challenges". Particular attention should be payed to policy areas such as:

The Dutch State-secretary Kosto presented his own new proposals regarding the problem of immigration and asylum. According to these proposals - advocated also by Germany - refugees who have done away with their ID-papers and those who cannot be persuaded to return in their home country, should, in the future, be sent to camps to be set up - not in the receiving European country - but in the proximity of their countries of origin.

According to Mr. Kosto's idea, western European governments would have to pay for the installation and operation of these reception facilities and provide financial support to receiving countries willing to accept such camps on their territory. Yet, in the Dutch minister's view the really best solution of the problem would be, if the refugees never came to Europe and could be directly placed in the above reception centres near their home country.

As a matter of fact, both Denmark and the Netherlands have already taken a step in this direction by creating "reception offices" in a certain number of Third World countries such as Kenia. Their role is to persuade Somalian refugees heading for Europe to stay in refugee camps of the United Nations in Kenya. Refugees applying for asylum at the Dutch Embassy are given the same recommendation.

At home, State-secretary Kosto has been even more outspoken on his policy goals, when he recently declared: "We no longer let in refugees and immigrants into our country and thus protect the Dutch labour market."

In the Netherlands, some see both Mr. Kosto's Athens proposals for a "final solution" of Europe's refugee problem and his populistic statements at home as a populistic move to win xenophobic votes in view of next years elections in Holland. Mr. Kosto is a Social Democrat. He might have miscalculated. His recent declarations have drawn strong protest among the thousands of Dutch people who have offered shelter to Yugoslavian refugees in their homes and even his colleague in government, the Minister of Development Pronk has strongly objected Mr. Kosto's recent policy statements, by declaring in front of the press: "What does 'full' mean? Holland is not full. It is our duty to receive refugees and immigrants..."


Sources: Migration News Sheet No. 129/93-12; NRC-Handelsblad, 20.11.93; Caroline Meijers, ECF-Netherlands.