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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid