Thursday

19th Jan 2017

EU extends internal border checks

  • A handful of EU states fear many of the people still stuck in Greece will attempt to enter their territories. (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

The EU commission on Tuesday (25 October) endorsed extending internal border controls in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway for another three months.

"The controls so far have been necessary and proportionate," EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avrampolous told reporters in Strasbourg. He described the three month extensions as being ”strictly limited".

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"It is the exception in exceptional circumstances, it is not the new normal," he said, without ruling out possible further extensions later on.

EU rules allow border checks to remain in place for up to two years.

All five states imposed internal checks over the summer in an effort to stem last year's migratory and asylum seeker flows from Greece. Those checks were allowed to remain in place for six months until mid-November as a response to "a serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security."

The EU commission says the five states are still under intense pressure, despite a large drop in the number of people entering Greece when compared to last year.

It argues that the "situation in Greece remains fragile" and that people, despite being largely stuck in the country, are still making their way to the EU states.

The EU commission and Greece maintain around 60,000 asylum seekers are in the country although the UN puts the figure closer to 50,000. "This number will not stay in Greece forever," said Avrampolous.

The commission also says the new European border and coast guard agency will not be fully operational until January next year.

The agency, which is still often referred to as Frontex, will have a pool of some 1,500 border guards it can dispatch at a moment’s notice in case of an emergency.

"In three months, we are expecting the full operation of the European border and coast guard," said Avrampolous.

The three-month lag suggests the EU commission is still hopeful to lift internal checks throughout the passport-free Schengen zone, which covers 22 EU states and Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

It had previously stated it wanted them removed before the end of year.

The EU commission's proposal will now be passed onto the Council, representing member states, for adoption.

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