The protection and strengthening of Schengen’s external borders are a pre-requisite to maintaining the free-travel area, Minister for Home Affairs and Internal Security Carmelo Abela and his counterpart PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami have told The Malta Independent.
This comes after the newsroom reported that in 2016 28% (14) of people using false documents were caught during a 20-day period when Schengen was suspended – between 21 January 2017 to 9 February 2017 - while the remaining 35 were caught throughout the rest of the year. Indicating that more people using false documents can cross borders undetected when Schengen is in place.
Minister Abela admitted that the use of false documents has always proved to be a challenge for the authorities, and the use of such documents is becoming even more widespread.
“This constitutes a challenge even when no checks are carried out at the internal borders, i.e. between Schengen States, as such documents are used by people seeking to enter the Schengen area from third countries illicitly.”
This means, he said, that Malta (as a Schengen Member State), must continue making the necessary efforts to protect Schengen’s external borders, which are also Maltese borders.
“Clearly, the same effort must be made by the other Schengen Member States.”
Dr Fenech Adami shared the same sentiment and told The Malta Independent that “Schengen must work as intended. If states ignore their obligations at the external border it will keep being called into question. We need to keep vigilant and keep reviewing all aspects of the way Schengen operates.”
The shadow minister for home affairs said it was also true that security fears did exist among Maltese citizens. “Having strong external borders is simply a pre-requisite if we are to keep our celebrated Schengen Zone. One is absolutely dependent on the other,” he said
“We cannot bury our heads in the sand. The abolition of internal border controls in Schengen has to go hand in hand with strengthening external borders.”
Minister Abela told the newsroom that currently Schengen Regulations have been re-evaluated with a view to strengthening them. On 7 March 2017, EU Ministers approved amendments which will see Member States carry out systematic checks against relevant databases, such as the Schengen Information System (SIS) and Interpol’s database on Stolen and Lost Travel Documents, on all individuals at the EU’s external borders, regardless of whether, or not, they are EU nationals.
The new regulations will apply to all external EU borders (air, sea and land borders), both when individuals are leaving or arriving into the EU.
The systematic checks will also enable authorities to ensure that anyone entering the EU does not threaten public policy, internal security or public health, thus strengthening the resilience of the borderless internal Schengen area.
“At the same time though, internal movement within the Schengen areas remains free without prejudice to the right of Member State authorities to conduct random police checks. Indeed, the Maltese authorities do conduct random checks when and as necessary.”