Schengen System to be radically changed

Last month Italy was given a warning by Germany, France, Russia and Switzerland over the country’s decision to grant more than 25,000 Schengen Visas to Tunisian economic migrants who have been fleeing the country on fishing boats in droves since the start of the year. So far in 2011 25,000 Tunisians (who are considered ‘economic migrants’ rather than ‘asylum seekers’) have landed on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, with many more expected to make the trip in the near future. Tunisians have been leaving the country in great numbers following the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January this year and the loosening of border controls.

Schengen Visas allow individuals to move freely throughout the Schengen Area for a period of up to 90 days; however the visa does not allow holders to work in the EU. Many countries are concerned that more than 25,000 people will now try to find employment in the EU, some of whom on official work permits but others working illegally in member states. The Schengen area was created to make it easy to travel between the many countries that make up Europe. Prior to the introduction of the are individuals had to carry a passport and clear immigration each time they wished to mover between countries, this caused major problems especially for business people wishing to work across many European countries.

The Italian Immigration Minister, Roberto Maroni, last month responded to criticism by saying that “We will give temporary visas for humanitarian protection to those people who are in Italy, not everyone, but those who fulfill certain conditions, which will allow them to move around the Schengen member countries.” If the Schengen system is changed it could make it very difficult indeed for highly skilled professionals to travel between European countries for business meetings, potentially leading to a drop in trade.

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