Interior ministers representing five European countries have asked the European Union to strengthen border protections for the bloc’s external borders.
Officials representing Greece, Poland, Italy, Austria, and France asked the EU to take swift action following the influx of thousands of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
While taking part in the Conference on Border Management held in Vilnius, Lithuania, the ministers described the increase in illegal crossing and mounting resource demands because of the migration crisis.
Switzerland and Norway took part in the talks as did European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and the heads of European security bodies like Europol and Frontex.
The minister asked the EU to reinforce the borders and take stronger action against those smuggling people across the borders.
“We must protect our borders from aggression, and we need to protect our people,” Johansson said at the border security conference. “We can’t wait until we have desperate migrants at our borders. We need to act sooner.”
The EU has been urged to reduce “incentives for illegal immigration” and prevent abuse of the asylum system by a joint statement signed by 16 EU members.
The Greek minister of migration and asylum Notis Mitarachi said the current border policies are not effective. Thousand of migrants have reached Europe via the land and sea borders of Greece.
“If people have the right to arrive in any European member state without any papers and without due process, then the whole Schengen code, the whole Schengen visa system, is meaningless,” Mitarachi said at the conference.
Mitarachi specifically wants to strengthen physical barriers along the border.
“We need to be clear that the EU has land and sea borders, and those borders need to be protected when needed by physical barriers and, accordingly, technology,” he said.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said at the conference that migration was a top priority for his nation. He affirmed that France supported calls for strong physical barriers.
Johansson said that the bloc must “ensure the security of our citizens” if they were to be expected to “move freely inside the Schengen area.”
The commissioner specifically underscored that a “secure external border” was the only way to ensure that security.