- Title: Extra border checks still justified though migrant influx eased, Commission says
- Date: 28th September 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF EU COMMISSION
- Embargoed: 13th October 2016 13:11
- Keywords: EU Migrants Avramopoulos Commission Turkey Deal
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: European Union,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00151HD553
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The European Union's executive said on Wednesday (September 28) that emergency border checks introduced within Europe's free-travel zone by countries including Germany and Sweden to stem a migrant influx were still justified, even though arrival numbers had eased.
European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference the Commission remained committed to lift border check within the 26-member border free zone, which includes 7 non-EU countries.
"I can confirm that the current controls remain within the conditions set by the Schengen rules, therefore the (European) Commission does not see the need for proposing amendments at this stage but our objective remains to lift all internal border controls and to return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area as soon as possible," Avramopoulos said.
The Greek Commissioner said, however, that this did not mean the five states - which also include Norway, Denmark and Austria - would automatically be allowed to extend their extraordinary border measures inside the so-called Schengen zone once the current ones expire on Nov. 12.
"Today's report - I said it in the beginning - does not prejudge the decision to be taken by the (European) Council on a proposal from the Commission to prolong or not the temporary internal borders control after November 12 of this year," Avramopoulos said.
In a blow to European integration, the EU temporarily suspended some Schengen rules as member states were overwhelmed by the arrival of some 1.3 million refugees and migrants in 2015.
The Commission said a total of 5,651 people have now been moved to other member states from Italy and Greece, the main gateways to Europe for people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
The number of people relocated is way below the total of 160,000 who were meant to be shared out among EU states as bitter political disputes have hampered the process.
But Brussels said relocations were gaining momentum with 1,202 people moved in September, and hoped some 30,000 more would be transferred from Greece by the end of the year.
The Commission added that around 12,000 people have been resettled directly from migrant camps outside of the EU to the bloc in the last year.
They include more than 1,614 Syrian refugees from Turkey, part of a Brussels deal with Ankara under which Turkey is in return obliged to restrict the number of people leaving its shores for Europe.
Avramopoulos said the deal - though badly criticised by rights groups for undermining refugees' rights - was keeping the arrivals low.
"Despite challenging circumstances this summer, the EU-Turkish statement has continued to work and bear results and remains our number one priority. Since March, the number of arrivals in Greece as I told in the beginning has dropped drastically," he said.
Average daily arrivals to the EU had sunk to 85 persons per day since June, compared to over 1,700 per day before the March deal with Ankara and 7,000 per day in October 2015, the Commission said in a report.
Brussels said it has so far spent 467 million euros on aiding Syrian refugees in Turkey, also part of the migration deal with Ankara. It said it has signed aid contracts worth 1.25 million euros from 3 billion euros promised initially.
The EU is still working on visa liberalisation for Turkey though major hurdles remain, including Brussels' insistence that Ankara must change its anti-terror laws.
To tackle the influx of people, the EU has increasingly focused on sealing its external borders. Brussels also said on Wednesday the bloc's new joint border and coast guard would become operational on Oct. 6.
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