Worries As EU's Schengen Borders Expand East

LONDON, United Kingdom -- Just one porous border will stand between most of Europe and tens of thousands of illegal immigrants under changes that take effect on Friday, December 21.

Illegal immigrants, captured by Ukrainian border guards while trying to cross into Europe, queue for breakfast in a detention camp.

Hungary and Poland are among nine recent additions to the European Union who will join most other members in throwing open their EU frontiers to travel without a passport.

Under the latest expansion of the Schengen agreement, countries such as Germany and Austria will stop checking people entering from the east, and anyone who can make his or her way over the 1,800 miles of borders from the Baltic to the Adriatic will be able to travel throughout most of the EU without being checked.

Border officials have already reported an upsurge in people trying to cross the EU's new outer frontier. Britain has not signed up to the Schengen zone, but many of those heading for the eastern frontier say they want to cross the Channel.

Franco Frattini, the EU's commissioner for security, described the expansion of the EU's free movement zone as a "quite nice Christmas gift" to the people of central and eastern Europe.

But Knut Paul, the head of Germany's police trade union, has warned that the new Schengen members will not be able to defend the EU's borders. "We are exposing ourselves to the threat of being swamped by criminals and illegal immigrants," he said.

On its visit to the border between Hungary and the Ukraine, The Sunday Telegraph found evidence of serious weaknesses in controls over immigrants from outside the EU. Officials said that they caught fewer than a third of those attempting to cross illegally.

Roger Helmer, a Conservative MEP, said levels of immigration were "completely out of control… These changes will make things even more difficult. The border between the UK and the Continent is not insuperable."

Source: Telegraph