Thursday, April 26, 2012

Freedom of Movement Restrictions: Coming to a European Country Near You

This week has brought some distressing news for fans of freedom of movement. 

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has published a report revealing that the German and French Ministers of the Interior are seeking to modify the Schengen Agreemment, the treaty that allows for passport and visa-free travel throughout most of the territory of the EU. According to the letter, they seek to reintroduce border controls for temporary periods of 30 days in order to "curb illegal immigration". This comes on the heels of some German admonishments of Greece in failing to protect its borders (instead opting for creepy immigrant round-ups that violate human rights) AND results of immigration surveys showing that many persons from Southern Europe and elsewhere continue to seek asylum in Western European countries.

Der Spiegel quotes sources speculating that this is all political posturing to appeal to far-right voters in time for the French election. But is it? Following Sarkozy's adventures in deporting Roma from France (which, as you'll recall, drew comparisons to Nazi Germany's deportations of persons on the basis of ethnic background) its not so clear that conservative politicians aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is and disregard Schengen.(Just look at Denmark!)

And while we have Germany and France promising not to let people out, we have Macedonia promising to keep certain kinds of people in. What kind of people, you ask? 
In 2011, the ERRC documented at least 10 cases in which Romani people were denied the right to exit the country at Macedonian border crossings to Bulgaria and Serbia. Border guards regularly stop Romani individuals who they believe may be seeking asylum abroad, denying them the right to leave the countries.
..You guessed it. The European Roma Rights Centre is calling on the Macedonian government to end discrimination against Roma people seeking to travel outside of their country. (Which, if I remember correctly, is a basic human right.) But this baseline discrimination might be just the beginning- the government has announced that it will introduce measures to prevent persons from leaving the country who have once claimed asylum in another state. This measure as well is more than likely to heavily target Roma.

Between Southern Europe cracking down on immigrant and refugee rights and making it harder to move north, and Northern European countries disregarding their own treaties for politically opportunistic reasons, we have a real problem in Europe right now. The question is, what do the citizens of Europe value more? Their freedom of movement, or their freedom from foreigners?

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