Thursday

1st Dec 2022

Police stopping migrants can help save Schengen, EU says

  • Johansson said police will be able to use "technical equipment surveillance", to check on car plates for instance. (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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The European Commission wants to reduce internal border checks by shoring up joint-police patrols against irregular migrants.

The move comes with extra surveillance powers, entitling police to send back the person to the member state they left in a wider bid to curb so-called secondary movements.

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"If that joint police team finds a person, then they can also refuse that person entry without having internal border checks," EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters on Tuesday (14 December).

"These are unauthorised movements of irregular migrants from one member state to the other," Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, speaking alongside her, also said.

"It is something that compels us to act because there is nothing in the law at this stage on this," he said.

Many migrants come from ethnic or racial minorities, but the draft EU regulation says racial profiling would be prevented, even though the practice was widespread, as Johansson admitted.

The new plan describes itself as an "alternative measure" to internal checks in the EU's passport-free Schengen travel zone.

It builds on an earlier EU proposal allowing police to chase down, arrest, and even shoot suspects in other member states.

And it comes after years of internal border controls, many of which were imposed in 2015, when over a million migrants and asylum seekers arrived in the EU.

But the EU Commission never formally challenged the controls, despite EU states offering slim evidence prior to the pandemic of why they need to be imposed.

When pressed why states had never been challenged, Johansson said she could not comment on the actions of previous commissions.

But she noted that the new rules would now oblige the commission to issue an opinion should a member state have controls in place for 18 months or more.

The proposals are part of a larger revision of the so-called Schengen Borders Code, which governs how the external borders are managed and involves two new regulations.

The first regulation deals with internal border controls, and introduces a new article (23a) in the code to underpin the cross-border police checks and migrant returns.

It also attempts to create a binding rule, agreed by member states, when it comes to creating uniform restrictions due to Covid for people travelling into the EU.

The second allows EU states to bend asylum rules should they face scenarios similar to the border tensions with Belarus.

Instrumentalisation

Those tensions along the Belarus border with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have seen thousands of migrants and asylum seekers stranded in freezing forests.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, at least 21 have died.

"This is a hard route to document. The true number is likely higher," it said, in a tweet.

Earlier this month, the commission proposed rules allowing Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia to also bend asylum rules for up to six months.

NGOs say the proposals weaken rights and could see people detained for up to 16 weeks.

The commission now wants to expand similar rules to cover all other EU states by introducing the concept of "instrumentalisation" into the Schengen Code.

It defines instrumentalisation of migrants as a non-EU state-led bid to deliberately wreck havoc on a member state by shuffling people to the external border.

"We do this not only as a migration issue, but this is also part of a geopolitical character that we want to have," said Schinas of the proposal.

It means quicker returns of migrants, extend registration deadlines to up to four weeks, and allows decisions to be made at the border on whether asylum claims are legitimate.

Under existing rules, member states have three to six days to register an asylum claim, or sometimes 10 in exceptional circumstances.

Commission plan allows police to shoot suspects in other EU states

Although only a recommendation, the latest proposal on police cooperation would allow them to arrest - or shoot, if necessary - suspects in other EU states. The EU Commission also seeks to automate sharing of facial-recognition images by police.

EU skirts pushbacks, suggests people seek asylum in Belarus

The EU Commission presented a proposal to allow relaxing EU asylum laws in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia for six months. It says all rights will be respected - but deflected questions on whether a Polish law on pushbacks complies.

Investigation

Dismantling Schengen — six months at a time

Several EU countries have put in place almost permanent internal border controls, circumventing the Schengen Agreement on free movement. The EU Court of Justice declared such controls illegal. Now they are trying to loosen Schengen rules in Brussels negotiations.

Amnesty: Belarus forces 'beat migrants seeking EU asylum'

Amnesty International documented numerous beatings by Belarus guards of migrants after being forced back into Belarus from EU states. The NGO spoke to 75 people lured to the borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from Belarus.

Exclusive

EU states press for more detention, in asylum overhaul

Austria is citing hybrid-attacks to detain rejected asylum seekers for up to 20 weeks along Europe's frontier borders, while Poland wants to limit people's access to international protection at the borders.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

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