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EU Ministers Insist: Internal Border Controls Should Be a Measure of Last Resort

The reintroduction of internal border controls by several Schengen Area Member States, and their continuous extension which has kept happening for years now, has been discussed by the EU Ministers and Secretaries of State of six EU countries in a meeting held in Brussels on Friday, March 24.

During the EU round table meeting, which was hosted by Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, it was noted that internal borders in the EU are an exception, and in order to remain so, progress must be made in reforming the Common European Asylum System, reports.

Minister Faeser urged the EU to work more on a comprehensive reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), as the time window for it, would close in the summer, as foreseen previously.

What unites us is the common goal to better steer migration policy on the European level. That is also my idea for Germany. We must also pay attention to limit illegal migration. This is about a system as a whole which consists of responsibility on the one hand and solidarity on the other,” Minister Faeser said.

The Swedish State Secretary, Anders Hall, on the other hand, highlighted the difficulty that the Member States would face to reach the agreement, given their different points of view on the matter.

But we firmly believe in the Swedish [EU] presidency that we will be able to reach conclusions,” Hall said.

He further assured the Ministers and Secretaries present in the meeting that his country would do the utmost in order to make a compromise with all participating countries and find a solution “where nobody is happy with everything but we are at least equally unhappy with the joint solution.”

Whereas the Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, told those present that the asylum system in Belgium is currently overburdened, and due to such a situation, the asylum and migration debate is extremely important for this country’s government.

The meeting follows a report by the European Office for Statistics, Eurostat, that in 2022, the number of first-time asylum applications filed at the Member States increased by 64 per cent, to reach 881,200, the highest number reached since 2016.

In this number are not included Ukrainian refugees, to whom were granted 4.3 million temporary protection statuses under the EU’s temporary protection directive activated a year ago, in March 2022.

The trend has continued this year, with 92,000 asylum applications filed at EU members in January alone, during which applicants representing the largest group of asylum seekers were Syrians with 12,700 applications, and Afghans with 12,100.

Regarding the reintroduction of internal Schengen Area border controls, currently, six Member States have them in place – Austria, Denmark, France, Germany Norway, and Sweden. They mainly cite migration risks, and the situation at the external borders, as a reason for these controls.

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