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29th May 2022

Irregular border-crossings halved, EU commission says

  • Irregular immigration down 50 percent, says commission (Photo: wfbakker2)

Irregular migration into the EU fell to its lowest level since 2008, the European Commission revealed Monday (3 June).

A total of 13,600 irregular crossings were reported at the EU's Schengen borders in the last three months of 2012, a 52 percent reduction on 2011. The figures form part of a Schengen 'health check' covering six months from November - April 2013, by the EU executive on the functioning of the Schengen area.

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The Schengen agreement offers passport-free travel to more than 400 million EU citizens and 26 countries.

The main fall occurred in Greece, with the commission reporting that the "situation changed in August 2012, when Greece redeployed around 1,800 border guards at its land border with Turkey". Italy accounted for 4,231 detected persons, marginally higher than the 4,035 reported by the Greek authorities.

The commission also revealed that it had opened two new cases regarding allegations that Germany and Spain had violated rules preventing governments from using national border controls

Meanwhile, the number of asylum applications from countries in the Western Balkans also fell by 44 percent in early 2013. The most popular European destinations were Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Luxembourg.

"We owe it to our citizens to make sure Schengen remains an area without border controls," said EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a statement.

However, governments are becoming increasingly anxious to re-assert more control over their borders.

EU justice and home affairs ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Thursday (6 June) in a bid to sign off on legislation aimed at amending the Schengen borders code by setting up a framework allowing governments to reintroduce controls at internal borders in exceptional circumstances. The Schengen rule-book currently allows the reintroduction of border controls when there is "a serious threat to public policy or internal security."

Under the agreement struck between MEPs and ministers last week, countries unable to secure their borders would be eligible to EU financial support, as well as to additional aid from Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office or the EU police agency Europol.

Meanwhile, the EU executive could propose to allow a temporary reintroduction of border controls for a limited period of time on the basis of a qualified majority vote, while governments could shut down their borders if they felt threatened by political demonstrations, high-profile political meetings, or sporting events.

Ministers will also assess a regulation establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to oversee the implementation of legislation related to the Schengen area.

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