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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid