Refugee crisis: Schengen under threat?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. In the debate related to migration crisis we see more and more discussions about the possibility of reestablishing of border controls. Would this be helpful in your opinion, or maybe so much?

2. In general, do you see any real chance that Schengen system might be scrapped or at least hugely restricted?

Answers:

Christian KaunertProfessor of International Politics, University of Dundee

1. No, the reintroduction of border control would not actually solve anything in this crisis. I know the German interior minister made comments to that effect, but this cannot be backed up with empirical evidence. In fact, Germany’s highest statistics of asylum seekers ever was 1 million people in 1993, before the dismantling of border controls. The reason for the high numbers now is the civil war in Syria and the conflict in Lybia. You can only bring numbers down if those problems are solved. Border controls could not cope with current numbers any better than Schengen, as we can see in Macedonia and Serbia.

2. No, I don’t think Schengen will be scrapped or significantly revised. The alternatives are much worse, border controls would not increase efficiency, but also, member states do not have the resources easily available to scrap Schengen. The Dublin system will need to change though with more redistribution of applicants on a mandatory basis. Otherwise, there is a very uneven flow of asylum seekers and member states won’t tolerate this for too long.

Carmen Márquez-Carrasco, Professor of Public International Law and International Relations ,University of Sevilla

1. In my view, the EU must maintain a firm stance on the issue of freedom of movement. To exist as a political and popular project, Europe needs to preserve that liberty; without it there would only be a free trade area with no political or citizenship dimension. If we give in here, the EU and the European project will lose their very meaning. Taking into account European principles and values reestablishing border controls is not a valid nor adequate response, and it will not be useful either. There is the need for a vital discussion on what the EU and the European project mean and how they relate to the protection of refugees and migrants fleeing violent crisis.

2. In the current circumstances, and given the pressure on specific countries (Italy, Greece and others) the Schengen system could experience a temporary suspension, as it happened in 2011.

Natasja Reslow, Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of European and International Law, Maastricht University

First of all, the vast majority of migrants arriving are fleeing conflict and persecution. UNHCR says that the majority of the thousands of migrants who have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year come from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea – countries with a high rate of successful asylum applications in Europe, because they are presumed to be in need of protection. Most of the migrants trying to cross through Macedonia at the moment are also presumed to be Syrian. So what we have is not a migration crisis, but a refugee crisis. I think instead of changes to the Schengen system, it’s much more likely and necessary that we’ll see changes to the Dublin system. This is already starting to happen (see e.g. reports from that Germany has suspended the transfer of Syrian asylum-seekers ). The countries at the southern borders of the EU (particularly Italy and Greece) simply cannot cope with the volumes of asylum applications that they must process. The agreement within the EU to relocate 32,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU countries is a start, but given that 137,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Italy and Greece in the first six months of 2015, it is not enough. Other EU countries need to step up and share the ‘burden’ of processing asylum applications. And the EU as a whole needs to do more to resettle asylum-seekers. It is shameful that the EU only resettled 8,500 refugees in 2014, whilst there are over one million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon. As the European Parliament has recognised, it is necessary to provide legal and safe avenues for people in need of protection to reach the EU, otherwise they will take irregular and dangerous routes. Already more than enough lives have been lost in the Mediterranean this year.

Giacomo OrsiniResearch Student, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

  1. If border controls across EU member states were re-established but freedom of movement remained in place, I do not think there would be significant consequences for international migration to the EU. As for today indeed, the vast majority of people deciding to emigrate to the EU – from outside of it – enters Europe with a regular visa of any sort – tourist visa, work visa, student visa and so like. People get a visa either for the country where they want to live, or for the EU member state where it is easier to get a visa: then, once they enter Europe, with their Schengen visa they can move to the country that they prefer. With people entitled to remain in the EU for at least 90 days (tourist visa) and to circulate freely among member states, I do not see how the reactivation of border controls would matter. If we look instead at the tiny (but extremely visible) fraction of people that enters the EU without the required documents (undocumented border crossing) there would be more significant consequences for refugees, as the Dublin convention would be enforced more efficiently. Refugees would find it harder to leave the first country were they applied for asylum. As for the others – those who entered illegally and were not granted the refugee status – it would also be harder to cross EU internal borders without being detected. Nevertheless, considering as people who enters Europe without the necessary documents have most likely already crossed a variety of other borders illegally before getting into the EU, I do not think that the re-establishment of internal border controls would stop them doing that again. What is always missing from the analysis/discussion is the reality of border control: in fact, it is simply very hard – if not impossible – to effectively enforce it bot at sea and on land. Think about all the cross-border Alpine routes for instance, or at all the minor routes or footpaths crossing the border separating Germany from France and so like. Thus, the re-establishment of internal border control per se would not produce significant changes in migratory patterns to the EU. If instead the re-establishment of border control would be coupled with restrictions concerning the freedom of movement, then major consequences would be experienced by migrants and EU citizens as well. This, I guess, would anyway generate much greater public opposition.

2. Today I do not see real chances for this to happen as to abolish Schengen would be relatively unpopular. After all, anti-immigrant parties in Europe do not sum-up more than 15-20% of popular support. On the other hand, most European citizens have enjoyed either directly – as they moved freely within the EU for instance for tourism – or indirectly – as they have relatives that emigrated somewhere else in Europe – the freedom of movement so that they appreciated the advantages it generates. Thus, I do not see the conditions for European public to politically support such a change. Nevertheless, in time of economic, social and political crisis, public opinion’s concerns can shift very quickly.

 

 

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