France led pleas for greater sover- eignty over borders as migrants fled Egypt and Tunisia
Sunday September 11,2011
By Ted Jeory
BRUSSELS is poised to veto demands for emergency border controls from countries fearing mass immigration from North Africa.
France led pleas for greater sovereignty over borders as migrants fled Egypt and Tunisia at the height of the Arab Spring earlier this year.
Countries wanted to relax some of the rules that allow passport-free travel in 25 European countries.
Britain, along with Ireland, is not a part of the Schengen Agreement zone, but Tory MEPs were concerned over the implications of an exodus on immigration here via Calais.
They are calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May to ensure Britain pushes for major longer-term reform of the agreement.
However, the European Commission is expected to announce proposals on Friday that fall short, saying that permission from Brussels will be required if member states wish to re-erect border crossings in the event of a crisis.
Timothy Kirkhope, a Tory MEP and a former Immigration Minister
Controls would then be limited to five days. Any extension would require approval by a majority of EU states.
It means that the borders of sovereign countries will effectively be determined by other states.
The European Commission believes this is the only way that “mutual trust” between Schengen countries, and the free flow of goods it is designed to promote, can be maintained. However, Timothy Kirkhope, a Tory MEP and a former Immigration Minister, said Brussels was simply meddling in what should be domestic affairs.
He said: “The European Commission has not listened. Governments are not asking for their borders to be closed, just to manage who enters at certain times, which is completely reasonable.
“Protecting borders is a fundamental task of any government and it seems wrong that they must ask permission.
“Schengen is completely outdated. We need reforms that continue to allow EU citizens unimpeded travel but which allow governments to control large flows of immigration.
“The control of migrants into one EU country has implications on the flow of migrants into the whole of Europe, including the UK. What happens in Calais and Normandy affects us and it is in our interests to allow countries on our doorstep to regain control over large flows of migrants, many of whom will ultimately be destined for the UK.”
This year a row broke out between Italy and France when 20,000 Tunisians arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Other countries declined to share the burden and Italy ushered them on trains to France which sent them back.