WITH close to a million Filipinos in Europe, including those in the Schengen states, how will the refugee problem affect those intending to visit their relatives since the visa-free and no-border control system signed in June 14, 1985 is in peril?
Alarmed by the massive migration of refugees from Syria and neighboring Muslim states, Germany, one of the five original signatories to the Schengen agreement, announced the closing of its border with Austria on September 13, 2015.
The announcement came when the historic visa-free travel among the 26 Schengen states marks its 30th anniversary.
Filipinos in Europe
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) report in 2013 shows there were 886,187 Filipinos in Europe. Two European union countries – one an Schengen signatory (Italy) and the other (UK) not – are the two top destinations: the UK is home to 218,126 kababayans, Italy is host to 271,946.
Germany announced it is closing its border with Austria in an apparent response to the continuing rush of migrants to Europe. The announcement came as the Schengen agreement marks its 30th anniversary.
The Schengen agreement was signed on June 14, 1985, enabling the border free travel within the member states. The original signatories of this agreement were Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It was integrated into the legal framework of the EU with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999.
Germany shares borders with nine Schengen states – Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The other Schengen states – Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Liechtenstein — may be indirectly affected should the Schengen agreement be sidelined.
Applying for a Schengen visa
Germany – like most Schengen states – requires applicants to apply online. Booking an appointment and completion of the free Schengen visa form is free and an applicant may request assistance from a family member, friend or a trusted third party. The applicant must bring a printout of the completed form to the Embassy on the appointment date.
Before going online, the applicant must have required documents on hand to ensure proper completion of the form. Incomplete forms will not be printed. The required documents are:
Original, current passport, valid for at least three months from the date of departure from the Schengen area and two color passport photos;
Details of flight and travel (itinerary) although actual tickets or paid bookings are not necessary;
60 Euros visa fee for adults, 35 euros for children. The total fee (based on the current exchange rate) must be in Philippine pesos;
Bank statement for the last six months;
Travel health insurance – minimum of 30,000 Euros
Evidence of employment showing duties performed, salary and approval of paid leave of absence which should match or be at least equal to the duration of intended visit to Germany or other Schengen states;
Source of regular income (for entrepreneurs/business persons/self-employed, proof of business registration (DTI for sole-proprietorships corporation papers or partnership as applicable);
Evidence of enrolment (if a student)
Proof of available funds or access to funds for the entire period of intended visit.
While there had been no reports of persons with valid visas being refused at any German border, it is recommended that the Schengen visa holder has either the confirmed booking with hotels (paid hotel vouchers) if not staying with friends or relatives. Otherwise, a formal, notarized declaration from the civil authority where the inviting host resides is required.
Refugees in different clothing
Italy has the most number of temporary and “irregular” Pinoys – 182,204 that represents 67 percent of the total. Most of these temporary Schengen visa holders came in for “short visits” with the intention of finding work, legal and authorized or otherwise. A significant number of those who apply for Schengen visas are eyeing domestic household jobs or as healthcare workers.
Filipinos bound overseas – including those with Schengen visas – leave the country in search of better jobs, better life and the best of what they can provide for their family members left at home.
Compared to the number of refugees streaming to Europe since the mass exodus from Syria began, there are more Filipinos in Europe as there are coming in from countries affected by the proxy war between the US/NATO allies and Russia.
The only difference is that while the number of Filipinos in Europe grew over time, those crossing Schengen borders with Germany today are rushing to beat time – to escape ethnic cleansing or tribal war.
As for the politicians crossing the border of decency, spending people’s money as time runs out before they can be legally and officially prohibited from campaigning, may their tribe decrease.