As the 26-member state Schengen area is effectively suspended, individual member states are calling for the activation of article 26 of the 1985 treaty, that is, the suspension of freedom of movement and the reintroduction of border controls for two years.
Following Greece, Italy is now under intense pressure to process the refugees, which means fingerprinting them forcibly and, of course, slowing them down.
UNHCR reports that 153,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2015, compared to approximately 800,000 in Greece, that is, the first entry point into the Schengen zone. Most of the migrants continued overland through the Western Balkans to Central Eastern Europe. If that road is blocked, the sea route would be the only possible release for the flow. La Stampa estimates that up to 400,000 refugees could be arriving on Italy’s shores, but the minister refused to provide estimates.
Sweden, Germany, Austria, and France have already suspended the Schengen zone. Austria is promoting the idea to cut off Greece from the Schengen zone. Speaking to La Stampa on Tuesday, Italy’s Interior Minister warned that thousands would continue the journey to Italy. Alfano noted that it is impossible to put barbed wire in the Adriatic or the Mediterranean.
The Austrian Minister of Interior, Mikl-Leitner, suggested on Monday that the Greek navy had enough resources “to secure” the Greek-Turkish border. Speaking to reporters upon arrival for the Minister’s Council on Monday she did not specify how the Greek navy could “secure” the border. Apparently, she was drawing from the vast experience of the Austrian Navy.
… but holding on to Dublin?
Italy’s Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, made the choice explicit on Tuesday, January 13: “The European Union (EU) has two possibilities: either it suffers the consequences of the migrant flow, or it tries to control it.”
Italy’s preference on the matter is also clear, with Gentiloni saying that it is the Dublin convention that requires review, especially the clause which requires asylum-seekers coming into the EU to be processed in their country of arrival. This clause has made Italy and Greece the buffer zone for Europe, receiving all migrants heading from Asia and North Africa to Europe via Turkey and the Mediterranean.
Italy has received 320,000 since the start of 2014; Greece 850,000. Many states blast on both countries for the lack of systematic controls that allows them to freely continue their journey to destinations in northern Europe, where friends, families, and more dynamic economies are drawing them.
Gentiloni also demanded from EU governments to agree on a joint list of countries from which asylum seekers are accepted, as different states have a different attitude on Afghanistan and Eritrea.
The weather has not stopped the flow of refugees with an estimated 40,000 new arrivals in January with more than 70 casualties already.
European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, insisted on Monday that Greece’s exclusion from the Schengen zone is not on the table, but there is a probe on the reasons of Greece has failed to meet expectations. “Meeting expectations” was the operative term for Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, during the Council Meeting on Monday. Avramopoulos urged Greece to comply with its obligation to set up four additional registration hot spots. Thus far, there is only one hot-spot centre in Lesvos.
Dutch minister Klaas Sijkhoff is calling for the reinstatement of border controls; Sweden’s Anders Ygeman seconds this conclusion, Reuters reports. They both suggest that both Greece and Italy should have “registration centres” as planned.
Presumably, they are also hoping that Rome and Athens will drop Schengen and stick to Dublin. Think again.