The European Union is drawing up plans to charter its own flights to return illegal immigrants to their home countries.
Under the plan, individual member states would be able to claim seats on planes for rejected asylum seekers they wish to remove.
The EU flights would then make multiple stops in different countries to collect deportees before flying on to their country of origin.
The plan for a common EU approach to repatriation flights is set to be approved by an EU summit in Brussels on Friday.
A document due to be debated at the summit shows that Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, would fund and operate the shared flights.
The agency will be asked to explore the possibility of “regular chartering…. of joint return flights”, the document says.
Britain is not a full member of Frontex, but helps fund the Warsaw-based agency and UK borders agency staff have been seconded to work for it.
The proposal, drawn up by Sweden, also calls for more joint naval operations between EU states aimed at intercepting the movement of would-be immigrants by sea.
There will also be greater dialogue with the Libyan authorities to persuade them to do more to prevent Libyans setting sail for Europe.
Some estimates suggest that more than 100,000 illegal immigrants enter the EU every year via the Mediterranean.
Most end up in Mediterranean countries, who are arguing for a “burden sharing” system where each EU state would get a quota of illegal immigrants it had to accommodate. Britain is strongly opposing that plan.
Some EU countries are already co-operating on deportation flights.
Earlier this month, Britain and France combined to charter a flight that returned 27 Afghans to their home country. Twenty-four had claimed asylum in the UK and three had claimed in France.
The flight sparked French political protests, but the government of Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to push ahead with tougher immigration policies.
On their return to Afghanistan, the deportees were put up in hotels and offered £1,800 to help them resettle.
France last month dismantled “the jungle” at Calais, an impromptu refugee camp for illegal immigrants hoping to enter the UK from France.
The two countries have also agreed to establish a new co-ordination centre monitoring illegal immigration, based in Folkstone, Kent.
EU leaders say that a more co-ordinated approach to border control is starting to pay off.
Frontex this week said that illegal border crossings into the EU declined by 20 per cent in the first half of the year. However, asylum requests also increased 11 per cent.
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- Switzerland re-imposes curbs on EU workers (euobserver.com)
- UKIP Immigration Policy (dickiebo.wordpress.com)