26th Oct 2016

EU to hold emergency Schengen talks

  • Swedish police is now checking ID of train passengers arriving from Denmark. Here at Hyllie station near Malmoe. (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday (6 January) following the snap introduction of border control checks in northern Europe.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos convened the talks after Sweden introduced ID checks with Denmark, followed by a similar move by the Danes, who began border controls with Germany.

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"The idea of the meeting is to improve the coordination of the countries in question in order to ensure better administration of migratory flows", said EU commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas.

Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU state. In a bid to stem the flow, it imposed identity checks earlier this week on anyone entering the country from Denmark.

Swedish police in Skaane say fewer migrants have crossed since the measure was imposed, reports AFP.

On Monday, the day the ID checks were launched, they registered 48 arriving migrants compared to the around 200 daily arrivals averaged up until 29 December.

"We have to be prepared for the fact that people may seek other routes than the (Oresund) bridge or ferries, regardless of whether it is a Danish network behind this or individual initiatives," coast guard spokesman Mattias Lindholm told news agency TT.

Local aid organisations and NGOs are warning the controls will create new business opportunities for smuggling gangs and endanger people's lives.

The ID checks also ends more than 60 years of travel free restrictions between the two EU states, causing delays and headaches for thousands of commuters crossing the Oresund bridge.

Denmark, in response, then introduced a ten-day temporary border control with Germany to stem the flow of refugees heading to Sweden.

EU border law allows for such measures but only if there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security.

The commission's preliminary assessment suggests the clampdowns appear to be covered by the rules, although when pressed, it was unable to specify how refugees entering Denmark pose a serious threat to public policy or internal security.

A commission spokesperson instead noted the legal provisions behind the Danish and Swedish decisions will be discussed at the meeting and further assessed.

"Member states must respect EU law when they perform such controls and we are currently examining the legal provisions of Sweden", said a commission spokesperson.

Denmark's immigration minister Inger Stoejberg, Germany's interior ministry official Ole Schroeder, and Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson, will attend the meeting.

The broader EU response to the migration and refugee crisis has been bogged down by administrative delays and political infighting between member states.

Earlier this week, the European Commission announced that only around 0.17 percent of asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy have been resettled so far in other EU states.

The scheme requires EU states to resettle 160,000 arrivals over a two-year period.

Launched four months ago, it noted that only 272 Syrians and Eritreans have been transferred.

“It really shows a failure of all states to properly commit themselves to this from the start", Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director, told the Guardian newspaper.

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