EU crackdown on people smuggling
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union has vowed to step up the fight against gangs who smuggle illegal immigrants for cash.
The Balkan route is often used by organised gangs to move thousands of economic migrants and asylum seekers from China, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Romania into Europe.
According to the EU, as many as 200,000 illegal Chinese migrants may be sheltering in Yugoslavia waiting to be smuggled in to Europe.
Greece says it has boatloads of illegal immigrants arriving every day from the Balkans.
On Thursday, EU justice and home affairs ministers agreed to send a delegation led by Swedish Asylum and Immigration Minister Maj-Inger Klingvall to Belgrade and Sarajevo later this month to press for more co-operation from authorities.
"The minister will send a strong political message that the EU takes this problem very seriously," a source said.
"The situation there is very bad, but it can be resolved if both sides make an effort."
Britain is heading a Europe-wide initiative, co-ordinating up to 40 immigration and police officers in the region to help train local authorities on how to check visa validity and identify forged passports.
The European Commission is considing funding projects aimed at closing the Balkan route through the bloc's regional stability programmes.
The issue comes as the EU prepares to embrace up to a dozen new members, many of them located in key transit routes for drug and human smuggling.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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