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The European Commission is seeking to normalise, rather than tackle, deficiencies in it’s latest proposals for the revision of the Schengen Borders Code. 

The Left expresses its serious concerns following today’s announcement by Commissioners Schinas and Johansson of changes to the code that governs the operation of Schengen area* external borders.

Rather than put forward provisions that would tackle the persisting internal border controls (in place since 2015), and ensuring the right to free movement of EU citizens, the new proposal will allow for these internal border controls to last up to two years and be introduced more easily.

While clear and binding provisions for member states to guarantee safe access to the EU, and asylum procedures to persons seeking international protection, were needed, the proposed revisions espouse an extreme right view of migrants as a “threat”. The plans thus seek to militarise borders and “reward” member states that constantly violate fundamental rights and the asylum acquis at the EU’s external borders.

Instead of taking measures against chain pushbacks** between EU countries, the Commission’s proposal seems to be formalising them, bypassing existing rules as set out in the Return Directive.

“This proposal exposes how the Commission seeks to fully engage in an inhumane, violent power struggle with third countries over the lives of asylum seekers trapped between borders,” said MEP Clare Daly (Independents for Change, Ireland) reacting to the announcement. “This is a clear attempt to override international asylum law, using extra policing and surveillance tools to target, sanction, and forcibly pushback migrants. This will licence further abuse, neglect and deaths of asylum seekers when so many lives have been lost already.” 

For Kostas Arvanitis MEP (SYRIZA, Greece), “the Commission’s proposal, especially in view of the current practises that go unpunished and the absence of a robust and independent monitoring mechanism to ensure that member states and EU agencies comply with the obligation to respect fundamental rights at the borders, comes as a loud confirmation of its true nature. This is about shirking responsibility for the current situation in the world, disrespecting international obligations and even our own laws on asylum, outsourcing and externalising migration management, and militarisation of the EU external borders against people seeking protection. This way, not only do we not live up to our own standards and obligations, but we even empower those who want to exploit people in need for their own benefit.”

Notes:

*The Schengen area comprises 26 European countries that are supposed to have formally abolished passport checks and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.

**Pushbacks: an illegal practice by which refugees are forced back over a border without consideration of their individual circumstances and without the possibility to apply for asylum.

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