23 Apr 2011

Migrants fleeing Arab unrest spark EU dispute

1:52 pm on 23 April 2011

France has called for an easier mechanism to temporarily suspend an agreement that allows free movement of people between 25 European countries.

The move is in response to the influx of thousands of migrants fleeing the upheaval in Libya and Tunisia, the BBC reports.

More than 20,000 migrants, mainly from Tunisia, have arrived in Italy as a result of the uprisings in North African countries.

Italy, which complained it was not getting enough help from the European Union, has granted them temporary visas allowing them free travel in the countries which signed up for the Schengen agreement.

Suspension of the agreement is permitted only in the case of a grave threat to the public order or internal security.

A senior French official said there may be a need for a system for a temporary suspension in case of a systemic failure of an external EU border.

Last week, French officials temporarily stopped trains with migrants crossing the border from Italy into France.

The decision sparked anger between Italy and France, with Italy accusing its neighbour of overstepping the treaty on border-free travel.