EU likely to propose allowing border controls for six more months

The European Commission is likely this week to propose extending border controls within Europe's border-free Schengen area for six more months, a spokeswoman said Monday, citing persistent deficiencies in Greece's ability to manage its frontiers.

"There are still some deficiencies which need to be remedied," commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Monday, calling on Athens to tackle these issues "so that we can progressively phase out border controls until November."

One of Europe's most-cherished achievements, Schengen usually is the epitome of free movement, with 26 countries allowing free travel across their bloc without the need for passports or border checks.

But several Schengen nations have reintroduced internal border controls to stem migration flows, after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers overwhelmed their systems.

The uncontrolled flows were largely blamed on Greece, which was accused of letting migrants pass through unchecked until countries further north shut down their borders.

Unannounced EU inspections in November found "serious deficiencies" in Greece, whose border with Turkey is an external Schengen frontier.

The EU has given Athens until May 12 to fix the problems. The commission has said that it is otherwise ready to propose that intra-Schengen border controls be allowed to continue for up to two years.

The EU's executive is due to give its latest formal assessment of the situation on Wednesday. Germany and five other countries have asked for the border controls to continue for six more months, government sources in Berlin said at the weekend.

One of those countries, Denmark, announced Monday that the temporary checks along its border with Germany would be extended until June 2.

Danish police began to conduct spot checks at some of the country's 15 border crossings to Germany in January. The government believes that the measures have had a "preventive effect," said Inger Stojberg, minister for immigration and integration.

Stojberg said there was no sign of any build-up of illegal immigrants in the country, but noted that the number of asylum seekers in Europe is "historically high."

She added in a letter to the commission that, according to the EU's border agency Frontex, there was still "ongoing pressure on Europe's external borders."

Denmark estimated that about 630,000 people were subjected to spot checks between January 4 and April 24, resulting in 1,133 people being denied entry from Germany, while 136 people were charged with suspected people trafficking, she said.

The Scandinavian country registered almost 3,300 asylum bids between January 4 and April 24.

Last week, Copenhagen said it planned to deploy 125 members of the Home Guard to help with the spot checks, a measure aimed at easing pressure on police and allowing officers freed up by the move to  return to other duties.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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