EU passport-free area under threat as nations take action to slow huge influx of migrants

Passport free travel in Europe is under threat as countries reintroduce border controls, toughen security and build fences in response to the biggest refugee emergency the continent has seen in decades.

VALLETTA, Malta — Passport free travel in Europe is under threat as countries reintroduce border controls, toughen security and build fences in response to the biggest refugee emergency the continent has seen in decades.

The Schengen open-borders zone uniting 30 countries is a pinnacle of European achievement. It underpins the EU economy, allowing goods, services and people to cross frontiers without checks.

But Sweden says security at its borders cannot be assured and announced that checks were resuming on Thursday, while tiny Slovenia has begun erecting a fence to stem the flow of people from Croatia, the second nation, after Hungary, to resort to such a measure.

These uncoordinated and unilateral actions in response to unpredictable movements of thousands of people have raised fresh doubts about whether the passport free area can survive the migrant challenge.

“Saving Schengen is a race against time,” EU Council President Donald Tusk warned on Thursday after a migration summit with European and African leaders in Malta.

He cited individual moves by Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and others in response to what they see as threats to their border security from the tens of thousands of migrants streaming in from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

“Without effective control of our external borders, Schengen will not survive,” Tusk said.

The two-day summit on the Mediterranean island was meant to focus on how to send back to Africa those who don’t qualify for asylum and discourage others from attempting the risky journey across the seas in search of a better life.

The leaders did sign up to an action plan of short and longer term measures to halt the flow of Africans coming to Europe and steps to send back those who don’t qualify for asylum.

They also signed on to an emergency package of migration aid worth 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion) that select African nations will be able to use.

Then the Europeans quickly huddled for informal talks about how to cope with their refugee emergency. The EU estimates that 3 million more people could arrive in Europe seeking sanctuary or jobs by 2017.

Many people are arriving in Europe via Turkey, and Tusk announced that the EU hopes to host a summit with Turkey in Brussels by the end of this month.

The EU is offering Turkey — which is hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees — a package of sweeteners for it to crack down on border security, including billions of euros and speeding up its EU membership talks.

Turkey has asked to be present at high-level EU meetings, and the summit is being described by EU officials as an “easy deliverable” to get Ankara to boost border security.

The mass influx has overwhelmed European border authorities and countries simply to do not have the capacity to accommodate everyone.

The leader of Sweden — with the highest number of migrants per capita in Europe — defended his country’s move on border controls.

“When our authorities tell us we cannot guarantee the security and control of our borders, we need to listen,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.

Lofven said his EU partners understand the decision, and he called for an overhaul of the rules governing Europe’s passport-free area.

“We need another system. That is obvious,” he said.

Tensions were also high Thursday in southeastern Europe, as Slovenia continued work on a razor-wire fence on its border with Croatia to hold back the migrant influx.

The two countries have a long-standing territorial dispute dating back to the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and Croatia believes the border fence is encroaching on its soil. Their leaders met in Malta to try to calm the row.

Slovenia says it is being overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 180,000 asylum-seekers moving toward Western Europe since mid-October.

Despite the influx and pledges of action, EU nations have been slow to move. A plan to share 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece has barely got underway, with around 130 having left for other host nations.

“If we keep going at this rate we will have relocated 160,000 people in 2101,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Just Posted

The Red Deer Public Library downtown branch will be reopening after a year on Monday, after work is completed on its HVAC system replacement. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)
Red Deer Public Library opens with limited in-person services Monday

All three Red Deer Public Library branches will be open for in-person… Continue reading

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

Most Read