The recent instability caused by revolutionary change and military conflict in some Arab countries in North Africa has the potential to generate substantial flows of migrants into the EU. EU Ministers will meet on 11 May to consider what might be done.
Some migrants will be genuine refugees but many will be economic migrants. Anyone who sets foot in the UK and claims asylum has the right under the 1951 Refugee Convention to have his or her case heard and also has a right of appeal if refused. Applicants are supported by the taxpayer throughout the process which takes months, and often years. The UK's record in removing those whose cases eventually fail is extremely poor.
In theory, the UK can return economic migrants who claim asylum to the EU country in which they first arrived but that requires proof of their point of arrival which is often impossible to obtain.