Tag Archives: Border controls

60 years after creation of European Economic Community, Europeans skeptical about one of their biggest achievements this century

Anti-European movements seem to be enjoying a fair wind, not only in Great Britain but also here on our side of the Channel. This demonstrates how Euroskepticism has become a threat to the fundamental values of the common European life.

Although the EU considers itself a unity, it is unable to introduce a united policy. In the absence of such policy, it is impossible to overcome the growing economical and social inequalities between the citizens of the Member States.

The European Economic Community, founded 60 years ago, was meant to maintain and guarantee peace. More than ever nowadays, in an unsafe world where hundreds of thousands are fleeing the horrors of war, we should embrace and take care of this precious gift of peace. Though many people today are willing to step out of the union, this is not the moment. It would be reckless to put all of it on the line.

People may not forget that we have already so many years of no war experience. In our regions the EU also managed to protect democracy: the freedom of press, freedom of speech and a free choice of religion (those being just a fraction of the inviolable rights Europeans enjoy).

All Member States of the EU have to ensure democratic guidelines, and countries aiming to join the EU cannot hinder reform processes. This contributes to the broadening of democratic values.

Two essential aspects of the European Union are the free movement of persons and a single currency. Admittedly, they Euro Series Banknotes.pngare not perfectly elaborated; the Euro being the most commonly criticised aspect. However, in the Euro Zone, currency exchange disappeared along with the attached fees. We can cross the borders of all EU countries without passport control or visa requirements. It is really a pity that the last few months we saw the Schengen Agreement undermined. That agreement is the seal of proof for our ‘Union’, which assured a free movement concept within the internal borders, not only contributing to the economical dynamism but also to an inter-cultural exchange and thus to peace and understanding between different cultures.

No border control: Border crossing between two Schengen Agreement states, view from Germany to the Netherlands. The Netherlands begins at the red line added to the photo.

The ex-communist countries by putting up walls are forgetting what it meant to be inclosed and are taking on a very selfish attitude. Free movement across our internal border-states is necessary, but also an allowance for people and goods entering our community.

Map of Europe indicating the four member countries of the Visegrád Group

Visegrad Group, also called the Visegrad Four, or V4 is a cultural and political alliance of four Central European states – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – for the purposes of furthering their European integration, as well as for advancing military, economic and energy cooperation with one another.[

All the Visegrád countries now have leaders who could be fairly described as national-populists. In Western Europe, their rhetoric would often put them at the far-right of the political spectrum: they typically reject migrants and Islam, and do not wish to reproduce the Westerners’ experiment in multiculturalism in their own countries. This has led to clashes with Western Europe, notably Angela Merkel’s Germany, and the European Commission, who have advocated the welcoming of millions of refugees and the distribution of thousands across Central Europe.

Furthermore, all these nations – with the exception of Poland – have made various pro-Russian statements, and implied that they would ideally want a reconciliation and reinforcement of economic ties with Moscow. This bodes ill for the maintenance of the EU’s sanctions against Russia, in retaliation for the annexation of Crimea, and which can only be maintained by unanimity. More generally, Trump’s traumatic surprise electoral win in the United States is likely to embolden Central European conservatives in challenging Brussels and Berlin’s leadership of the EU.

Central Europe according to The World Factbook (2009),[17] Encyclopædia Britannica, and Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (1998)

The area in which this is most apparent is perhaps demographics. Central Europe faces severe medium-term decline in the face of ongoing emigration – while wages have risen, they remain much higher in the West – and extremely low fertility, which goes from 1.3 children per woman in Poland to 1.5 in the Czech Republic.

As a result, the European Commission projects that all these nations, with the exception of the Czech Republic, will see a drastic decline in population between now and 2080, falling by as much as 25 percent. In Poland, this would mean almost 10 million less people. This will inevitably mean a weaker Central Europe in the world, with a rapidly-shrinking labour force obligated to commit an ever-greater share of resources to an exploding population of pensioners.

The case of demographics shows the weaknesses of Visegrád’s alternative vision for Europe. Borders and national sovereignty are indeed means of slowing change, including undesirable change. But in themselves, they would do little to halt Europe’s decline to an elderly collection of statelets on the western Eurasian periphery. No doubt more creative and forward-looking measures are needed to prevent such a scenario and secure a sovereign Europe’s place among this century’s leading powers.

Everywhere in Europe we have to face the problem of the older getting population. Europe shall need young men and women to strengthen our workforce. When we can help rescuing people fleeing for the horrors of war we should open our borders.

Therefore, we can only shake our heads when we hear that others plan on building walls. Europe is familiar with such division. We must not let it come to that point anymore. To question the free movement of persons, on anyone’s behalf, would be a major setback for this free and diverse community.

The EU is not perfect but it assures peace and safety in Europe. To criticise it, is legitimate. To destroy it, is not.

We cannot deny that reforms and innovations are needed to make the EU fit for the future. However, these reforms can only be completed through unity and cohesion and not through antipathy and inner conflict.

A strengthening of the European Union is very overdue.

Isn’t it a privilege to be able to call our neighbours our friends? To move freely without passport control? Not to have to exchange currency? And moreover: to live in peace?

For us Europeans, these privileges have become self-evident, just like so many other things in the EU. And yet so many are beginning to question it all.

With thanks to Vox Europe

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Preceding articles

Still Hope though Power generating long train of abuses

Challenges and impact on freedom of movement within the EU

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Additional reading

  1. Migrants to the West #1
  2. Migrants to the West #2
  3. Migrants to the West #3
  4. Migrants to the West #6
  5. Migrants to the West #8 Welbeing
  6. Europe and much-vaunted bastions of multiculturalism becoming No God Zones
  7. 2015 Human rights
  8. Religion, fundamentalism and murder
  9. Religious Freedom in a Multicultural World
  10. The New gulf of migration and seed for far right parties
  11. Problems by losing the borders
  12. Brexit: The mother of all uncertainties
  13. Walls,colours, multiculturalism, money to flow, Carson, Trump and consorts

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Symbolic move to scare people away

Because Denmark found it had to need tighter immigration rules Martin Henriksen, immigration spokesman for the populist DPP, used the debate to call for an extension of the border controls that have currently been introduced on a temporary basis.

Copy of “the Independent” cartoon in the article about Human rights groups who also objected to measures delaying family reunifications (2016 January 27)

Do we have to say “After more than ” or “it took only” three hours of debate to have the minority Liberal Party government’s bill adopted by 81 votes to 27, with the support of the opposition Social Democrats and the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DPP)? One politician abstained and 70 others were absent.

This shows clearly how the majority of Denmark is feeling about people in need coming to safer places, like Denmark and Germany.

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, of the opposition left Red-Green Alliance, argued that the measures taken are

a symbolic move to scare people away.

The United Nations warned the measures would “fuel fear and xenophobia” but Danish politicians claimed they were

“about creating equality between migrants and Danes”.

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The tough measures such as confiscating refugees’ valuables to pay for their stay and delaying family reunification to three years, are not worthy for a free democratic state.

Denmark’s prime minister has warned that the 1951 United Nations treaty governing the rights of refugees might need updating. After Sweden imposed identity checks for travellers coming from Denmark, Denmark did the same along its border with Germany. Hungary had already built a razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia. {NYT}

Denmark and all the other European countries can and should take other measures to avoid the influx of refugees to the more wealthy countries of Europe. Last year, a record 21,300 refugees entered Denmark, one of the highest rates per capita in the EU, but Germany has to face more entrants and public opinion is also under pressure in that country.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote to Denmark’s immigration minister to oppose the property seizures.

“I believe that such a measure could amount to an infringement of the human dignity of the persons concerned,”

he said.

The family reunification delays have also been heavily criticised, with Denmark being accused of violating the European Convention on Human Rights.

Jonas Christoffersen, the director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera:

“The right of refugees to be reunited with their family is protected by numerous international conventions ratified by Denmark. We believe the government is overstepping international law by implementing this bill.”

Liberal and left-wing EU parliamentarians criticised the proposed bill and took aim at a new provision in Danish law that would delay family reunification for up to three years for people in need of temporary protection.

“This law … goes completely in the wrong direction,”

Cornelia Ernst, a far-left German politician, said on Monday.

Amnesty International said the country had started a “race to the bottom” as support for refugees continues to wane across Europe.

“To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong,”

John Dalhuisen, its Europe and Central Asia Director said.

“This is a sad reflection of how far Denmark has strayed from its historic support of international norms enshrined in the Refugee Convention.

“European states must stop this dismal race to the bottom and begin to meet their international obligations, by upholding refugees’ human rights and dignity. Anything less is a betrayal of our common humanity.”

Liberal Party spokesman Jakob Ellemann-Jensen defended their proposition by telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last month:

“All Danish citizens and refugees coming here receive universal health care; you receive education from preschool to university, and you receive elderly care; you receive language training and integration training free of charge, paid for by the government.”

The only demand that we set to measure this is if you have the means to pay for your housing and for your food — regardless of whether you are a Dane or whether you are a refugee — then you should.”

Similar laws exist in Switzerland and Germany, according to officials there. Dozens of cases were reported in Switzerland of migrants’ assets being confiscated to fund their living expenses, although in Germany it was unclear if, or how widely, the policy was enforced.

According to CNN many in socially liberal Denmark say they are appalled by the law, which the U.N. Refugee Agency has called

“an affront to (refugees’) dignity and an arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.”

Wiebke Keson, a 72-year-old Danish refugee center volunteer, said she was “shocked” by the notion of confiscating jewelry.

“Since I’m German, I was immediately thinking about our own history,”

she said, voicing a common criticism that the policy echoes Nazi confiscations of Jewish valuables.

The refugee camp in Thisted (Photo the Telegraph)

A Syrian family was stopped by the police at Padborg Station in Denmark, near the German border, en route to Sweden last year. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

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Please do find to read:

A stain of shame for the European Union

Denmark votes in favour for a Discriminatory Nazi law

Denmark approves controversial refugee bill allowing police to seize asylum seekers’ cash and valuables

Danish MPs approve seizing valuables from refugees

Denmark adopts controversial law to seize asylum seekers’ valuables

Denmark approves law on seizing refugees’ valuables and delaying family reunions

Danish Law Requires Asylum Seekers to Hand Over Valuables

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UNHCR recommends measures for strengthening security and refugee protection

Flag of United Nations Refugee AgencyUNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed on 18 December 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva released guidance aimed at helping States deal with security concerns while maintaining vital standards of refugee protection.

2015 was a horrible year for millions of people who had to leave their own habitat, trying to find places where they could find some peace. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide will far surpass a record 60 million this year.

With almost a million people having crossed the Mediterranean as refugees and migrants so far this year, and conflicts in Syria and elsewhere continuing to generate staggering levels of human suffering, 2015 is likely to exceed all previous records for global forced displacement, the UN Refugee Agency warned in a new report today.

The global refugee total, which a year ago was 19.5 million, had as of mid-2015 passed the 20 million threshold (20.2 million) for the first time since 1992. Asylum applications meanwhile were up 78 per cent (993,600) over the same period in 2014. And the numbers of internally displaced people jumped by around 2 million to an estimated 34 million.

The report by the United Nations refugee agency says one in every 122 humans today is someone who has been forced to flee their homes.

It notes that the figure includes 20.2 million refugees, the highest total since 1992.

The report says the numbers were mainly driven by the Syrian war, conflict in Ukraine and other protracted conflicts.

Persian Gulf states, which were not a party to the 1951 treaty, have not accepted refugees despite sharing a common language and geographic proximity in the Arabian Peninsula. Lebanon meanwhile hosts more refugees compared to its population size than any other country, with 209 refugees per 1000 inhabitants. And Ethiopia pays most in relation to the size of its economy with 469 refugees for every dollar of GDP (per capita, at PPP). Overall, the lion’s share of the global responsibility for hosting refugees continues to be carried by countries immediately bordering zones of conflict, many of them in the developing world. The United States (and Canada) has limited Syrian refugees to about 1500 since that country’s war broke out in 2011. However, the United States has provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian aid and almost one-third of the more than $574 million provided for the refugees. Reshaping the Middle East Exact numbers on population shifts are difficult to determine because of the chaos in both Syria and Iraq. While some four million Syrians have fled the country, another 6 to 7 million have been internally displaced.

“Forced displacement is now profoundly affecting our times. It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection,”

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said.

“Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything,”

he added.

Nearly 2.5 million asylum seekers have requests pending, with Germany, Russia and the United States receiving the highest numbers of the nearly one million new claims lodged in the first half of the year.

Currently, with growing polarization of political debate concerning refugees in some countries, the concern is that asylum-seekers and refugees could be victimized, and refugee protection which has saved the lives of millions of people since World War Two could be endangered.

Two important points to bear in mind here are that refugees are themselves fleeing persecution and violence, often including terrorist acts; and that the 1951 Refugee Convention explicitly excludes people who are combatants or who have committed serious crimes.

For us it is very difficult to know if between the refugees are also fighters or infiltrators. Lots of people are afraid that Muslim fundamentalists may also enter our regions that way. But this would be most likely. The conditions how the refugees enter our regions is so bad that the Muslim fundamentalists can use much better and more safely way to enter our countries.

With border controls, UNHCR understands the need of States to identify security concerns at the point of entry, for example through increased checks, including the use of biometrics such as fingerprints and iris scans. Its recommendations include practical guidance on ensuring that these and other measures are carried out properly and proportionately and subject to judicial control, and avoiding discrimination, for example based on nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion. Applications for asylum must be looked at individually.

With cases involving the exclusion of people for serious criminal or terrorist acts, the paper of the UNHCR recommends that a factual and legal assessment be done, if needed, by specialized exclusion units. Guidance is provided on this and related measures, including handling of extradition requests, and detention. It also notes that people providing funds to terrorist organizations could themselves be excluded from refugee status, depending on the individual circumstances.

Registration is a crucial part of the refugee protection process, and UNHCR believes that proper systems for this, plus identity and security screening are essential including in situations of large-scale refugee influxes. As refugees are people at risk of their lives, information-sharing between States has to be done in line with established principles and standards on data protection.

Resettlement and other forms of admission remain a key tool for providing refugees with safety and a solution to their plight. In light of today’s record number of forcibly displaced people globally some 60 million the paper makes the point that it is more crucial than ever that resettlement and other forms of admission remain viable and effective options for the international community in dealing with refugees.

Resettlement programmes are handled between UNHCR and receiving States, which in many cases invoke far tougher screening than for almost any other form of admission to a country. Nonetheless, and to assuage concerns, UNHCR’s recommendations include support for continuing security screening not least as effective resettlement programmes provide a regular and safe alternative to dangerous sea and other journeys that not only put refugee lives at risk, but also profit smugglers and make the jobs of border security forces even more difficult.

Arguably the biggest risk for any environment of insecurity is that of increasing xenophobia and vilification directed towards people fleeing violent conflicts. The paper calls on States to exert continued resolute leadership in de-dramatizing and de-politicizing the challenges associated with managing refugee flows.

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