German government reinstates border controls amid record refugee influx

September 13, 2015 12:00 am

 Refugees make their way to a asylum-seekers’ accommodation after their arrival at the main train station in Munich. Photo / AP

’s open-door policy to refugees appeared to be unravelling
following the country’s reinstatement of border controls to curb the
overwhelming influx of migrants.
’s top economy halted all
trains from Austria and, in an historic move, temporarily suspended the
open borders Schengen Agreement in response to the arrival of tens of
thousands of Syrian refugees in recent days.
The decision marks a dramatic shift away from the current abolishment of passport checks throughout Europe’s Schengen zone.
German
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said: “At this moment Germany is
temporarily introducing border controls again along [the EU’s] internal
borders. The focus will be on the border to Austria at first.
“The
aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to
return to orderly procedures when people enter the country.

Mr de Maiziere added: “This step has become necessary. The
great readiness to help that Germany has shown in recent weeks… must
not be overstretched.”
The Interior Minister did not specify how
long the border controls would remain in place or give details of
exactly how incoming migrants would be handled. He said there could be
disruption to rail travel. Most migrants have been arriving by train.
Germany’s
national railway, Deutsche Bahn, said it had halted service between
Austria and Germany for 12 hours at authorities’ orders.
The
rules of Europe’s passport-free travel zone, known as the Schengen area,
allow countries to reintroduce controls in exceptional circumstances,
and the European Commission said that “the current situation in Germany
… appears to be a situation covered by the rules”.
In a
statement the EU executive said: “The temporary reintroduction of border
controls between member states is an exceptional possibility explicitly
foreseen in and regulated by the Schengen Borders Code, in case of a
crisis situation.”

It added that the executive would keep the
situation under review and said the aim would be to return to the normal
situation of no border checks between member states of the Schengen
zone “as soon as feasible”.
The European Commission added: “The
German decision of today underlines the urgency to agree on the measures
proposed by the European Commission in order to manage the refugee
crisis.”
It is not yet clear exactly what the temporary measures
include, but the move comes as German authorities have warned they are
at “the limit” in coping with the migrant crisis, with locals claiming
Munich is on the brink of collapse.
German newspaper Bild cited
security sources as saying the state government in Bavaria had asked the
federal police to help deal with the task.
The newspaper said the federal police would send 2,100 officers to Bavaria to help it secure its borders.
Germany
has become the destination for many desperate Syrian refugees fleeing
their war-torn home country, after it waived EU rules in August.
Tens
of thousands of people have crossed Austria by train on their way to
Germany since the two countries threw open their borders to the migrants
last weekend. A record number were expected to enter Austria from
Hungary on Sunday.
The German government announced the nation
would take in applications for Syrian asylum-seekers, regardless of
where they first arrived in the EU.
Munich, in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria, has been the main entry point for those entering the country.
Some
13,015 refugees arrived in Munich yesterday alone and 1,400 more are
expected to reach the city today – but there are fears it is already at
breaking point.
A police spokesman in Munich said: “Given the
numbers from yesterday, it is very clear that we have reached the upper
limit of our capacity.”

Federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt added how ‘effective measures are necessary now to stop the influx’.
In
a statement, he said: “That includes help for countries from where
refugees are fleeing and also includes an effective control of our own
borders which also no longer works given the EU’s complete failure to
protect its external borders.”
Christoph Hillenbrand, president of the Upper Bavaria region, said he did not know “how we can cope”.
Bavarian
public television BR said the city “came very close to a humanitarian
disaster”, but managed to limit the number of people sleeping on
mattresses on the ground to a few dozens rather than the hundreds that
was first feared.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel added:
“The European lack of action in the refugee crisis is now pushing even
Germany to the limit of its ability.”
The authorities are
considering whether to open up the Olympiahalle – a stadium used for the
1972 Olympics and which today serves as a concert hall or sports arena –
as a temporary shelter for the refugees.

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