Schengen under threat

06'36" 23/02/2016
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An investigation into efforts at the Greek and Swedish borders to manage migration that have come under heavy criticism for putting the Schengen Area under threat.
The boat speeds along the Aegean sea between Greece and Turkey. On board are NGO workers. Their mission is to save migrants attempting to reach Europe's shores in frail boats.

No, relax! The situation is quite horrible for the refugees crossing the sea. This shouldn't be needed. Europe now needs to wake up. This won't stop, it has been going on for a long time we need to realise that this is not going to stop. We need to make this as safe as possible.

In 2015, more than a million migrants transited through Greece. To deal with this unprecedented influx, the EU thought it had found a solution: installing migration reception and registration centres called Hotspots. They will be set up on in frontline states Greece and Italy. But four months on from this decision on Lesbos island the first reception centre in Greece is still being developed. But in the view of the director, registration is up and running. We now have two registration areas and that gives us the right to register 1,000 people per day

in each registration area. That makes 2,000 people per day. These figures however conceal a different reality. Despite aid from EU agencies, EU States believe there are serious failings at Greek borders, particularly in the handling of registration, surveillance of sea borders and reception infrastructure. If you don't control arrivals and the number of people coming in, it's very difficult to provide all the facilities necessary for people, such as clean clothes, food and accommodation.

Today the weather is very bad and we don't have so many arrivals. But tomorrow we may face 5,000 arrivals. For this humanitarian actor, registration isn't everything. It's also necessary to welcome migrants with dignity. The authorities are still always focused on registration, border controls, security, and administrative procedures. They are not at all involved in the humanitarian side. To comprehend the situation on the ground, an MEP travelled to the Moria camp. Kashetu Kyenge is co-drafting a Parliament report on migration crises in Europe.

In some ways, things are advancing in the right direction. Of course though, it is not yet perfect. Speaking to the civil servants, to those who are responsible for identification, they have also pointed out to us the weaknesses in procedure. Greece still needs assistance.
Kashetu Kyenge
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
The repercussions of the migration crisis have been heavy in and around the EU. Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have asked to restore border controls for a period of two years, putting the sacrosanct freedom of movement of people in the Schengen Area.

On the Øresund bridge linking Denmark to Sweden police officers have been stationed. From now on, it is no longer possible for EU citizens to cross the border without proving their ID. Word has spread and human smugglers know that there are tougher controls here. So migrants are staying south of the border in Germany and so on. At the height of the migration crisis in 2015, more than 2,000 refugees entered Sweden every day. Since restoring border controls, this figure has been reduced to around 100.

Our plan is that in the long term this will be in place, Schengen is in grave danger right now because of the inability of Schengen countries to control their outer borders. But why is a country which traditionally welcomes in refugees, limiting entry for Syrians who are fleeing the horrors of war? We have done more than almost any other country in Europe. The outer border of the EU is not working. The idea of the Schengen cooperation is that we have a common outer border, and if that works you don't have to have national borders.

A feeling echoed by other politicians.
In order to boost security, you need the re-introduction of internal borders. For real specific threats to your border, I accept that all options are on the table.
Roberta Metsola
Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)
Wintery conditions have seen arrivals of refugees dry up, but as spring arrives, Swedish authorities are expecting their country's borders to come under pressure again. Rania, who came from Aleppo five months ago, says there are still thousands of Syrians in Turkey waiting to enter Europe. People in Turkey don´t like us, so Syrian people don´t want to stay there.

They all to come to Europe. Israa, her sister-in-law born in Sweden, says Swedish authorities weren't ready to receive so many refugees in such a short time span. People are eating grass, things from the walls, people drink dirty water. They are fleeing to just have maybe a 1% chance of surviving and of giving their kids a life. The majority of refugees who enter Sweden pass through this centre to request asylum. Despite the high numbers of requests, this senior officer believes nothing justifies the death of the Schengen Area.

Of course, each one of us is depending on each other, but the Schengen system, I feel, is profound. So I think that it will take a lot to threaten the Schengen system. Member States have issued an ultimatum to Greece to strengthen its borders: a major challenge given the insufficient infrastructure and the huge number of refugees. But it goes beyond the management of refugees, to the future of great European project - the Schengen Area - which is under threat.