EU countries continue border checks, as ministers warn of possible humanitarian crisis

24 Feb 16

AUSTRIA, BELGIUM, GERMANY, DENMARK, , FRANCE, NORWAY, , SWEDEN

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Europe continues to grapple with its migration crisis, with Schengen member countries establishing additional border controls and EU ministers warning of a possible “humanitarian crisis” if countries along migration routes fail to properly prepare for the continued influx of tens of thousands of migrants.

What does the change mean? The migration crisis continues to pose a threat to freedom of movement within the Schengen Area. Belgium became the latest country to announce that it would establish border checks (albeit in a limited fashion), joining Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden among countries that have set up border controls. Denmark announced this week that it would extend its border controls by at least 10 days, and Austria has implemented caps on the number of asylum applications it will accept on a daily basis. Travelers should anticipate delays in areas where border controls have been set up, and non-EU and EU nationals alike should be prepared to show proper identification at checkpoints.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Who is affected: EU and non-EU nationals crossing into Schengen Area countries that have re-established border controls.
  • Business impact: New policies may slow travel at external and internal EU borders and may eventually require additional processing for individual countries.
  • Next steps: The EU is considering a host of measures to enhance security along the EU’s external borders, but EU member states have also asked officials to prepare for long-term extension of national border controls.

Background: More than 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa, and over 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived by sea this year.

Belgium instituted targeted border controls this week as it braces for the possible evacuation of an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 migrants in an encampment at Calais, a city near the French-Belgian border. A French court is expected to rule on the evacuation this week. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said in a televised interview Tuesday that Belgian officials will continue to monitor the border situation and that it is impossible to say at this time how long the security checks will remain in place. He added that Belgium notified the European Convention Tuesday of the border controls, which represent a derogation from the Schengen Agreement.

In Denmark, the government announced that border controls that were set to expire Feb. 23 would be extended until at least March 4. Officials said controls remain a necessity in order to maintain order and security in Denmark. Austria, meantime, has instituted a daily cap of 80 on the number of people allowed to cross its southern border in order to apply for asylum. It also capped at 3,200 the number of people permitted to enter the country on a daily basis for the purposes of traveling through Austria to seek international protection in a neighboring country.

The continued influx of thousands of migrants, who often enter Europe through Greece and travel through the Balkan Peninsula, prompted Dutch Minister for Migration Klaas Dijkhoff and European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos to issue a joint statement, calling for a unified “European approach” to addressing the challenge.

“We understand the pressure the different countries concerned are facing,” the statement said. “We are concerned about the developments along the Balkan route and the humanitarian crisis that might unfold in certain countries especially in Greece.”

The Council of the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council is scheduled to discuss external EU security measures at a meeting Thursday.

BAL Analysis: BAL will continue following developments in Europe, as officials consider both the re-establishment of national border controls and external border security. Delays should be expected when crossing borders where controls have been re-established.

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