Rome on Wednesday agreed to tighten border controls and house hundreds of migrants after Germany asked for help in dealing with record numbers of arrivals. Italian officials said this did not imply a suspension of Europe’s borderless Schengen zone.
Officials in the northern Bolzano region said they were ready to impose identity checks at the border with Austria, following a request from the German region of Bavaria, where a record 3,500 asylum-seekers turned up on Tuesday according to local police.
The Italian officials said Rome was ready to "reactivate" controls just as it did when it hosted the G7 summit in June, as "a temporary measure to allow Bavaria to reorganise and face the emergency."
An Italian foreign ministry spokesman said the Schengen code, under which people can usually cross borders without checks in most of the European Union, had not been suspended.
"There is just a general increase in the number of checks we carry out on those passing the border, which has been agreed by the frontier authorities," he said.
The province of Bolzano also said it would temporarily house up to 400 migrants who are trying to make their way across the border from Italy to Northern Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing wars and economic migrants escaping poverty have arrived in the European Union in an unprecedented wave that has confounded EU leaders and fed the rise of right wing populists.
Nearly all the refugees and migrants first reach the EU's eastern and southern edges and then press on illegally for richer and more generous EU countries further north and west.
Germany, which is prepared to take by far the greatest number of refugees, has begun accepting asylum claims from Syrians regardless of where they entered the EU, even though undocumented migrants are barred from travel across the bloc.
That has caused confusion for neighbouring countries, which have alternated between letting migrants through and halting them.
Hungary, the main arrival point for those crossing the Balkans by land, allowed thousands to board trains for Germany on Monday but has since called a halt, resulting in chaotic scenes outside the main rail station in Budapest.
The Czech Republic, which has also blocked the flow of migrants, said Wednesday it would stop detaining Syrian asylum seekers bound for Germany.
The push through the Balkans has temporarily eased the pressure on Italy, which had long been the main port of entry for migrants heading for Europe until Greece emerged as the preferred route this summer.
Italy has welcomed Germany’s decision to stop sending Syrian asylum seekers back to their port of entry and take in up to 800,000 refugees this year.
It has also railed against the EU’s eastern members for their refusal to accept a quota system to distribute refugees across the 28-member bloc.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Berlin, Paris and Rome would present a joint initiative to achieve a “fairer distribution” of migrants across the EU at an emergency summit in Luxembourg on September 14.
The European Commission has also promised to unveil a new policy next week to make it easier to process asylum claims, distinguish bona fide refugees from other migrants, and send those from safe countries home.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2015-09-02