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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid