Brussels proposes extending emergency border checks inside EU for three months

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2017 9:51 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's executive recommended on Wednesday extending emergency border controls inside what would normally be the bloc's zone of free travel that collapsed amid an influx of refugees and migrants, and feuds over how to handle them.

Under the proposal, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway - not a member of the EU but part of the free-travel Schengen zone - could extend their current border controls for another three months from their current expiry in mid-February.

"We currently have temporary border controls in place. These are exceptional measures for an exceptional situation," the bloc's migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

"Despite the progress and steady improvements over the past months, we are still not back to normal, unfortunately. That is why today we recommend prolonging temporary internal border control in the same five member states for ... three months."

More than a million refugees - mainly fleeing the war in Syria - and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015. While the number fades compared to the bloc's 500 million people, it triggered bitter disputes between EU states over how to provide for them.

The bloc has since been constantly tightening its border controls and toughening its stance on granting asylum. Only some 360,000 people made it to Europe last year after a deal with Turkey that cut to a trickle the number of arrivals in Greece.

The key route to Europe now leads from the coast of lawless Libya to Italy. It has been used mostly by labor migrants from Africa seeking a better living in the wealthy Europe.

The EU is determined to curb these flows as well and is increasingly offering money and other assistance to African countries of origin and transit to prevent people from embarking for Europe.

(Reporting by Waverly Colville, writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Dominic Evans)