News / Europe

North Africa Migrant Influx Prompts EU Border Debate

Migrants receive assistance as they arrive on the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy, early Sunday, May 8, 2011
Migrants receive assistance as they arrive on the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy, early Sunday, May 8, 2011

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

The arrival of tens of thousands of migrants in southern Europe from North Africa has prompted a fierce debate within the European Union on how to deal with the influx. Some countries have begun reinstating border controls within the EU, despite a decades-old agreement on passport-free travel throughout much of the continent.  

After five days on rough seas, these migrants have finally arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The 800 migrants had set sail from Tripoli, packed into their aging fishing boat.  Italian coastguards spotted the boat and helped them navigate into port.

Many of the arrivals are in desperate need of medical attention.


The inhabitants of Lampedusa, mostly fishermen, say they feel great sympathy for the migrants.

Today, Enzo Ochese is holding a party to mark the launch of his new fishing boat.  Like many of Lampedusa’s people, he has helped care for some of the most vulnerable migrants. “I saw this small Nigerian boy, three-years-old [on one of the boats].  We took him home, we washed him, he was really happy.  His mother was grateful.  Lampedusa has always welcomed these poor persons.  I think this is a really serious problem, I think the entire world, especially Europe, should assume the responsibility over this huge phenomenon, not just Italy," he said.

That sentiment is shared by the Italian government.  It wants other European countries to share the burden of the migrant influx.

What is happening on this tiny outpost of Europe is having deep ramifications for the whole of the EU.

Many of the Tunisian migrants who have arrived in Lampedusa want to travel to France, which has close ties with its old colony.

But last month, a dispute erupted after French authorities prevented a train carrying migrants from crossing into France from Italy, an apparent breach of the EU’s Schengen treaty on open borders.

For several years, it’s been possible to travel without a passport from Finland in the north to Malta in the south.  But the influx of migrants on Europe’s southern shores has prompted a debate here in Brussels over the re-introduction of border controls.  And that challenges one of the central pillars of the European Union, passport-free travel across much of the continent.

At a recent EU meeting on the issue, there was disagreement over whether European countries should start reinforcing their borders.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström made her position on the Schengen agreement clear. “Schengen is a fantastic achievement that we have achieved in the European Union, and we should protect it and defend it.  It is a beautiful achievement for the mobility of the people of the European Union," she said.

Human rights activists say Europe needs to do more to help the refugees arriving on its shores.

Anneliese Baldaccini is from the human rights group Amnesty International. “We have seen Europe taking only 5,000 people last year, the whole of Europe has taken, resettled 5,000 people from the global refugees population.  They surely are not doing enough," she said.

But immigration has become a fiery topic in European politics - and analysts say agreement on what to do with the migrants once they arrive remains a distant prospect.

For now, the EU is reinforcing its external borders in places like Lampedusa.

With the uprisings in the Arab world creating turmoil on Europe’s southern borders, authorities expect no letup in the flow of migrants.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More