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News > World

France Extends Migrant Border Checks Over 'Terrorism Threat'

  • French police check documents at the French-German border in Strasbourg.

    French police check documents at the French-German border in Strasbourg. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 April 2018

EU nations are now invoking security and terrorism because the EU commission no longer allows migration as a pretext for border checks.

France is extending border checks in Europe's passport-free Schengen Area until the end of October due to a 'terrorist threat,' despite tragic incidents such as the death of a pregnant refugee after she was returned to the Italian border by French customs last month.

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"Considering the number of recent and thwarted attacks – particularly the one in Trebes – that have hit French territory, the government has decided a new extension," the Interior Ministry said, referring to the man who killed four people on March 23 before he was shot dead by police.

France increased border controls after the Paris terror attacks on November 13, 2015, and imposed a state of emergency that has been renewed every six months since, going against the recommendations of many human rights groups.

Last Saturday, France angered Italy when French border police entered a clinic run by a non-governmental organization that cares for migrants trying to cross the Alps. The NGO, Rainbow for Africa, said the French brought a Nigerian asylum-seeker to the railway station in the Italian border town of Bardonecchia to conduct a urine test because they suspected him of drug trafficking.

A European Commission spokesman confirmed Wednesday "we received notification from France this week" to extend controls for six months beyond the April 30 expiry date.

Unlike temporary checks to curb migration in the Schengen zone, those linked to security do not require a formal green light from the Commission, the 28-nation EU executive.

A total of 26 European countries, including 22 EU member states, make up the Schengen zone, where no passport is required when crossing borders.

Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway have also imposed border controls, initially to curb uncontrolled migration, even if migrant flows have declined sharply following EU cooperation deals with Turkey and Libya, the main gateways to Europe. As a result, the commission says it will no longer allow migration as a pretext to impose border checks because "order has been restored." 

However, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway late last year cited security concerns for renewing the checks, while also claiming they need to control migration. Permission for the five other countries to continue the checks expires on May 12 and most appear set to request a renewal.

In a letter to the European Commission, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPO) asked for a six-month extension of controls on its borders with Hungary and Slovenia. He argued that although the number of asylum-seekers arrivals had decreased, "the smugglers would see the loss of internal border checks as a false signal and intensify their activities."

A diplomatic source said Poland, Hungary and Slovenia have complained to EU member states that they are paying an economic price for the border checks, questioning the pretext of security.

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