5 May 2011

EU border checks may be re-introduced

6:00 pm on 5 May 2011

The European Commission says reimposing border checks in the Schengen passport-free zone may be necessary when governments are faced with extraordinary flows of migrants.

The commission stressed that such border checks should be temporary.

The BBC reports the move reflects concern about the arrival in Italy this year of about 25,000 illegal migrants from North Africa, most of them Tunisians.

Most EU countries are in the 25-nation Schengen zone. Only a threat to public order is currently seen as justification for reimposing border controls.

Changes to the rules will be discussed by EU interior ministers on 12 May and are expected to be finalised at an EU summit in June.

In April, France stopped trains from Italy to curb an influx of Tunisian immigrants.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for changes to the Schengen agreement to allow the government to suspend visa-free travel.

So far this year, around 25,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy on small, overloaded fishing boats. They usually landed on the island of Lampedusa.

Schengen is a village in Luxembourg where an agreement to cut border checks was signed in 1985 between the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France.

The agreement took effect in 1995, abolishing checks at the internal borders of France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.