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IMMIGRATION

Schengen shows cracks with Tunnel incursions

More than 100 migrants stormed the Channel Tunnel early Saturday, penetrating a third of the way through and attacking staff in an incident that halted overnight traffic.

Schengen shows cracks with Tunnel incursions
Entrance to the tunnel near Coquelles, France. Photo: Billy69150/Wikimedia

The attempt to go through the tunnel from France to Britain came as the daily flow of thousands of migrants and refugees flocking to Europe's shores showed little sign of easing, with 168,000 migrants and refugees arriving in September alone, UN figures showed.

Most are seeking refuge in Germany or Sweden, but others have continued their journey to France in the hope of somehow crossing the Channel to reach England.

Traffic through the Channel Tunnel, which connects Britain and France, was halted for more than seven hours after a group of 113 migrants stormed into the tunnel in the hope of reaching the other side.

Train journeys resumed Saturday but with delays of up to three hours.

Eurotunnel, which operates the complex, said the incident was unprecedented, with migrants aggressively attacking its staff.

“This has never been seen before, it was a determined and well-planned attack,” a spokesman told AFP of the incident, which took place shortly after midnight (2230 GMT Friday) at the entrance to the tunnel near the northern French port city of Calais.

He said the group “ran through the terminal, pinning a number of staff members to the ground and throwing stones at them.”

A police source told AFP that earlier Friday evening there had been a substantial movement of migrants through Calais and towards the tunnel entrance “in the presence of  No Border militants” — an activist group backing free movement in Europe.

As Europe struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II, thousands have made their way towards France's northern coast in the hope of finding passage across the Channel to England.

Fabienne Buccio, head of the Pas-de-Calais region, said the group had demonstrated “a certain level of aggressiveness” during the breach.

A determined attempt

“Normally they stop before the security forces, but this time they wanted to get through,” she told AFP, saying they had managed to get a third of the way through the tunnel, which stretches some 50 kilometres (30 miles).

Buccio said two police and four migrants sustained light injuries in the incident.

French border police were repairing a large breach of nearly 30 metres (yards) in one of the many fences around the site.

Eurotunnel said it had closed the tunnel at around 12:30 am (2230 GMT on Friday) and services resumed by around 8:00 am.

Shortly afterwards, there was another attempt at Calais port when 300 migrants tried to get into the terminal through several different entrances as well as trying to board lorries, port security officials told AFP.

But they began to disperse when the police turned up around 10:30 am and blocked off the ring road leading to the port, an AFP correspondent said.

In August, the interior ministers of France and Britain signed an agreement to set up a new “command and control centre” to tackle smuggling gangs in Calais.

The move came after several weeks of attempts to penetrate the sprawling Eurotunnel site, the biggest of which was on August 3, when there were 1,700 attempts to get in.

Since then, major work to step up security has seen new barriers erected and more staff deployed along with sniffer dogs. The number of attempted break-ins has fallen to around 100 per night, police say.

Such attempts can be fatal: in the past three months, some 13 people have died while trying to reach the tunnel.

'Schengen's borders broken'

Meanwhile at Hungary's Beremend crossing on the border with Croatia, buses were awaiting to pick up the new arrivals after 4,987 people crossed on Friday, taking to 300,159 the total number who have entered so far this year.

Similar scenes were playing out on Croatia's border with Serbia with buses waiting to ferry the new arrivals directly to the Hungarian border. Zagreb said it had logged 5,000 new arrivals on Friday, taking the total since mid-September to 100,066 people.

Hungary is attaching razor wire to a fence erected at its border with Croatia, in a possible prelude to sealing the frontier to thousands of migrants.

Austria said it registered 2,683 new arrivals on Friday and another 2,363 in the early hours of Saturday.

Tens of thousands of people marched in the Austrian capital Vienna on Saturday in solidarity with the migrants.

The rally attracted a crowd of 60,000 according to the organisers, 20,000 according to police figures.

“All the refugees are welcome. It doesn't matter which war,  persecution or other cause has pushed them to flee,” said a spokesman for the collective of pro-asylum groups that organised the show of support.

With little end in sight, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she feared for Europe's borderless Schengen zone, urging countries to shore up their external frontiers.

IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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