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European Commission recommends three-month border control extension

The European Commission has suggested that five Schengen zone members should be allowed to continue with border controls for a further three months. The checks were put in place in the open-border area in 2015.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, recommended on Wednesday that five countries in the Schengen zone continue to implement border checks for three more months in the wake of the migrant crisis.

"Significant progress has been made to lift internal border controls, but we need to solidify it further," said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans in a statement Wednesday.

Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway, all part of the Schengen area that allows free travel between member states, have imposed border controls since 2015 due to the so-called migrant crisis. The Commission's proposal requires approval from the EU's 28 members.

"Despite the progress and steady improvements over the past months, we are still not back to normal, unfortunately. That is why today we recommend prolonging temporary internal border control in the same five member states for…three months," said EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The current measures were most recently extended in November but are due to lapse in February. The extension would allow the border controls until May. Avramopoulos said the extension was a "last resort" and would not be permanent.

"These controls cannot go on forever and they will not go on forever," Avramopoulos said in Brussels.

More than a million

Over one million migrants and refugees, many of them from war-torn Syria, arrived in Europe in 2015. The influx of people into the continent caused disputes over EU states over how to provide for them.

The EU made a deal with Turkey to stem the number of people attempting to enter mainland Europe. After that deal and concerted efforts to secure borders and limit migration by European states, only approximately 360,000 people made it to Europe last year.

The main route for migrants attempting to enter Europe is now from the coast of Libya into Italy. The EU wants to slow the flow from the north African nation as well, as thousands have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

kbd/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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