European Union justice and interior ministers meeting informally in Finland today called for a common EU policies on asylum and immigration. The discussions followed the dictum of the Treaty of Amsterdam bringing questions of asylum and refugee protection under the domain of the EU, but the 15 member nations discussed going further than that and establishing a unified EU asylum system. "There exists unanamity for this objective," said Finnish Interior Minister Kari Hakamies after the meeting, but added that country-to-country differences would require "a good deal of time to put such a system into practice."

The basic idea was that a request for asylum be treated in identical fashion by all EU member countries, which today have widely divergent policies governing matters like legal recourse against refusals, and time delays for the delivery of decisions.

Meanwhile, RTE News has learned that, of the thousands of asylum seekers who are entitled to work here under new legislation, only three have been awarded permits since the scheme was introduced at the end of July. The Irish Refugee Council says that the way the scheme is being run by the Government makes it almost impossible for both employers and asylum seekers keen to work