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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Was the Schengen Agreement a mistake?

The Schengen Agreement abolished border controls across most of the European Union. But an accord which has made life easier for business travellers and tourists has benefited criminals too.

And the discovery of the bodies of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants in the English port of Dover has served only to sharpen the debate - was Schengen a mistake?

Joining Mark Reid for this week's Europewide debate were - from Gent - the Social Democrat Belgian MEP Anne van Lancker - a former rapporteur on Schengen - and from Eastbourne on the English coast the British Conservative MP Charles Wardle.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It doesn't work because certain parties have opted out, namely the UK. In this country you need £30 and not a little patience, to get a passport, even if you only want to go to Calais for the afternoon. It's a nonsense and I think the UK must fully sign up to the agreement or a least bring back cheaper, less hassle, one year passports which were withdrawn without explanation.
Jayne Stevens, UK

I think Schengen must be regarded as an experiment

Sam Bond, UK
I think Schengen must be regarded as an experiment. Once the EU is enlarged, I fear there will be severe social pressures on it. Witness the reaction to "guest workers" in many countries.
Sam Bond, UK

Will the "pioneer" group of EU members (i.e. France and Germany) allow workers from Eastern Europe to freely enter their countries when those countries are admitted to the Union? I find it hard to imagine that Hungarians (once they become EU members) looking for work and willing to do so for less than their German and French counterparts, will be welcomed with open arms
Alexander Crawford, USA

Border controls between the Netherlands and Belgium could have saved their lives

John Nevitt, UK
The 58 Chinese who lost their lives were sent to their death from Rotterdam. The forensic evidence linking the container truck to a warehouse there, is clear. These poor people probably died long before reaching the UK yet border controls between the Netherlands and Belgium could have saved their lives.
John Nevitt, UK

What a strange question. The British decision to maintain its own border controls, unlike the continental Schengen area, has just led to the death of fifty-eight people.
Peter, Netherlands

Just like everything else in the EU, Schengen was a complete mistake. Take a hint UK - get out while we can.
JL, Brit in USA

Schengen seems to be a complete failure. After all, EVERY illegal immigrant to Britain must have passed through the Schengen area successfully. Or is the definition of removing these immigrants simply interpreted as allowing them to go where they wish?
David James, UK

As the EU expands to the east in the next few years the problem will become more acute

John M. Jones, UK/ Belgium
The problem in all of this is finding the right balance between detecting illegal immigrants and criminals and holding up bona fidae travellers and commercial freight. As the EU expands to the east in the next few years the problem will become more acute. Poland's eastern border with Russia will be an external EU frontier. What we need is much more co-operation between national police forces or, even better, a dedicated EU police division to combat illegal activities at external EU frontiers.
John M. Jones, UK/ Belgium

Preventing the free movement of people is wrong. There should be no immigration controls anywhere. If people commit crimes in their adopted countries, then, and only then, should they should be deported. Why deliberately deprive your society of an enriched gene pool, just to preserve outdated national identity?
Tom, Australia

It didn't benefit the 58 illegal Chinese immigrants in the truck did it? The EU either has to clamp down on port and border authorities to perform better security checks or have their freedoms repealed. Liberty can be dangerous as well as beneficial.
Benj'min Mossop, Britain

It will take years of hard work before we arrive at a satisfactory result but real union is the only way for Europe

Aris, Greece
It is rather unfair that the British, themselves outside the Euro and Schengen, constantly criticise the efforts of the rest of us. It will take years of hard work before we arrive at a satisfactory result but real union is the only way for Europe.
Aris, Greece

Look to the Nordic countries. We've had either no or minimal border control between our countries for decades. It has worked great. Norwegians expect to be able to go to Sweden or Denmark without a passport. It has become very natural. Schengen will do much the same thing and more all over Europe.
Dag Ĝien, Norway

The Schengen agreement is not a mistake. Those of us in the EU have nothing to be concerned about if we don't commit crime or evade taxes. I feel that genuine refugees will use the correct way to enter the Schengen area, but those doing so illegally should be expelled regardless of the consequences. Hence we will be sending a message that the EU is not a "free" bank or a land flowing with milk and honey.
Mark , Germany (UK citizen)

No wonder France still operates border controls when the Belgians just simply wash their hands of the problem

John, UK
The Schengen agreement is fine and this is the direction the whole of the EU must take. However it requires the full co-operation of all members and the Belgium authorities have shown themselves to be a weak link. No wonder France still operates border controls when the Belgians just simply wash their hands of the problem. The discovery of the Chinese illegal immigrants in Belgium shows that the outer limits of the Schengen area had been breached. In such circumstances it is simply not good enough for the Belgian authorities to indicate they were just following established procedures of the Schengen area. It is time for those procedures to be reviewed in the light of 58 tragic deaths.
John, UK

The Schengen agreement was not and is not a mistake. That is the direction into which the whole world should try to drift slowly. Less or no boundaries, less or no dictators, less bureaucrats like immigration and customs.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Britain is an island with different concerns...the one-shoe-fits-all Schengen agreement is simply irrelevant

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Britain is an island with different concerns... we do not have land borders (Ireland being a different set of issues), and the one-shoe-fits-all Schengen agreement is simply irrelevant.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I was puzzled to read that the Chinese illegal immigrants found dead at Dover had previously only been warned to leave Belgium. Surely, if Belgium is in the Schengen area, then the police forces of all the Schengen countries ought to have been informed?
Jon Livesey, USA

Schengen is a fallacy: Living in Luxembourg, I still find myself subject to frequent border controls, especially by the authorities at the French border, and often at the Belgian border too. The irony is that the "abolished" border controls operated by the French on the Luxembourg border are far more rigorous and invasive than anything I have ever experienced when entering the UK - one of the few EU countries which has not "abolished" border controls. Something doesn't quite add up - another example of EU countries saying one thing, and doing another.
David, Luxembourg

I don't think Schengen was a mistake. As far as I know, England is not part of Schengen and this is the reason why this tragic event happened. Britain should evaluate its policy as far as giving visa's are concerned. If not they will continue to encourage this kind of deathly attempts.
Jovino Miroy, Belgium

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See also:

19 Jun 00 | Europe
Trafficking: A human tragedy
09 Dec 98 | Schengen
Background to Schengen Agreement

Links to other European stories