Increased Border Controls in Europe to Stop Migratory Pressure

Border control checkpoint at Europe bridge German side in March 2020 (Photo: Leonhard Lenz / Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday, Estonia made preparations to close border crossings, if migration pressure from Russia escalates. On the same day, Finland made a similar decision. What is happening in Schengen and where could it end?

After weeks of migrant pressure from Russians, Finland closed all but one crossing points on its 1330 km border with Russia. But these are just two examples of strict border controls among EU members.

Who is Suspending Schengen and why?

Currently, eleven European countries (who are part of the Schengen area but not necessarily EU members) are operating temporary border controls.

In addition, Croatia has also introduced temporary border checking – less than a year after joining the Schengen zone.

Some of the temporary controls last only ten days or a month, but have been renewed several times, such as Italy’s land border with Slovenia. Others, however, such as controls in Norway, checks on Germany’s border with Austria, Austria’s borders with Slovenia and Hungary, and on France’s borders with all its neighbors, are scheduled to last well into 2024.

The reasons for the (re)introduction of controls are varied, as well as the main phenomena always linked to migration: migratory flows, human trafficking, threats of terrorist attacks, etc.

As of November 23, 2023, according to the EU Commission, the following countries have temporarily reintroduced border controls:

  • Austria (17 November -11 May 2024), borders with Czechia, Slovenia, Hungary.
  • Czechia (22 November 2023 – 3 January 2024), border with Slovakia
  • Denmark (12 November 2023 – 11 May 2024), Danish-German land border and Danish ports with ferry connection to Germany.
  • France (01 November 2023 – 30 April 2024) all internal borders.
  • Germany (November 15 – February, 2024), land borders with Poland, Czechia and Switzerland.
  • Italy (20 November– 9 December 2023), land border with Slovenia.
  • Norway (12 November 2023 – 11 May 2024), ports with ferry connections to the Schengen area.
  • Slovakia (24 November– 23December, 2023), internal border with Hungary.
  • Poland (23 November – 22 January 2024), border with Slovakia.
  • Slovakia (24 November – 23 December 2023, internal border with Hungary.
  • Slovenia (20 November– 9 December 2023), internal borders with the Republic of Croatia and Hungary.
  • Sweden (12 November 2023 – 11 May 2024), all internal borders.

Can These Controls Provide a Solution?

The Schengen Borders Code (SBC) allows member states to temporarily reintroduce border controls at internal borders in the event of a serious threat to public policy or internal security. Under EU rules, the total period should not exceed six months, but some controls, such as those on the French borders with countries like Italy, have been almost continuous since 2015.

Frontex has just published figures for border crossings across Europe. The figures cover the period from January to October 2023. A total of 97 300 migrants have been detected on the Western Balkan route this year. However, those arriving via the central Mediterranean route from the shores of North Africa towards Italy remain the busiest route into the EU, with more than 143,000 people arriving by small boat this way, a 68 percent increase compared to the same period in 2022. According to the agency, the Western Balkan route is the second most active route this year.

The number of detections of those crossing that border has actually decreased by 22 percent compared to figures from the same period last year. This, Frontex said, was “largely due to tighter visa policies.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *