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Europe promises immigration action as North Africa moves

Keeping Schengen safe from 'Southern Mediterranean'

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The European Council met yesterday to discuss the future of the Schengen Agreement - which allows free travel between 25 European countries - in the light of revolutions in north Africa.

The Council refers to events in "Southern Mediterranean" or even "Southern Neighbourhood Region" – an area you might know as north Africa.

It noted that recent events were increasing pressure on Europe's external borders – particularly for Italy and Malta. This has sparked calls from Denmark, France and Italy to temporarily re-introduce border checks – Denmark has already started such checks but insists they are in line with the Schengen agreement.

But there was general agreement that the current crisis should not spell the end of Schengen.

The Council statement said: "During the discussions, ministers expressed their unanimous position that the free movement of persons is one of the main achievements of the European acquis and that it must be preserved. The Council was also unanimously calling for reinforcing the control of the EU's external borders and for increased cooperation with third countries..."

The European Commission made several proposals to Council, including strengthening external border controls, better targeted legal migration, and sharing best practice for integrating migrants.

These will follow urgent action already being taken such as assisting people in Libya and at its borders, and working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The proposals will be debated at Council on 24 June.

More from the European Commission on immigration here. ®

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