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EU Debates Afghan Refugee Plan - 2002-10-16


European Union ministers are debating a plan to repatriate thousands of Afghan refugees living in Europe.

A draft of the plan discussed in Luxembourg today (Tuesday) says the refugees would be asked to leave Europe voluntarily, but it includes a provision for forcible repatriation if necessary.

Britain and France have already reached agreements with the Afghan authorities on voluntary repatriation. The French interior minister (Nicolas Sarkozy) says some Afghan refugees (from the Sangatte camp in northwest France) will be returning home in the coming days.

The new plan would apply to all 15 countries in the European Union. The draft says the return of refugees should be financed by individual E-U members, but the general E-U budget would pay to help them get resettled in Afghanistan.

Interior and Justice ministers hope to have the E-U repatriation program in place by the end of the year.

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