Paris - Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called on Thursday for the suspension of the Schengen accord that lets people travel without passport checks between 26 European countries, saying the continent's migration crisis had made it unworkable.
Sarkozy, a conservative who is tipped to seek power again in 2017, told Le Figaro newspaper that centres should be set up outside the European Union to vet people seeking asylum.
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He accused Socialist President Francois Hollande of visionless leadership in committing France to take 24,000 asylum seekers from among the mass of people fleeing countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Schengen no longer works. Nobody can deny it. We need to be lucid and assume the consequence by suspending free movement of non-Europe citizens temporarily within the Schengen area," Sarkozy, head of the centre-right Les Republicains party, was quoted as saying.
Borderless travel is one of the EU's proudest achievements but the system has come under strain as tens of thousands of migrants and refugees arriving in southern Europe have taken advantage of it to travel north to wealthier nations like Germany.
Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said the EU needed to first forge a common policy on migrants. War refugees should only be welcomed temporarily, with the goal of sending them back to their country of origin once conflict there ceased.
He argued for a policy that distinguished between political refugees who would get 10-year visas, war refugees whose stay would be temporary, and economic refugees whom he said countries like France could no longer afford to accommodate.