Following Germany, Austria and Slovakia Introduce Stricter Border Controls

Police officers directed migrants to buses at a camp near the village of Roszke, Hungary, on Monday. (Credit: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)
Police officers directed migrants to buses at a camp near the village of Roszke, Hungary, on Monday. (Credit: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Austria and Slovakia introduced strict border controls on Monday, as Germany’s decision to institute border checks over the weekend began to ripple across a bloc struggling to deal with the influx of migrants coming to the Continent.

In Hungary, the authorities said that a near-record 5,353 migrants had crossed into the country from Serbia before noon on Monday — even as Hungary continued to try to seal off that border, which has been reinforced with the construction of a razor-wire fence.

Citing Hungary’s decision to make unauthorized entry into the country a criminal offense starting on Tuesday, Serbia said it would set up refugee centers in the north of the country and pleaded for the European Union, of which it is not a member, to take action. About 3,500 migrants were expected to pass through Serbia on Monday, with most seeking to end up in Germany or Austria.

While Berlin said the German border controls were only a temporary, emergency measure, the restrictions were a signal that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance toward the migrants was encountering domestic resistance.

Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told members of his center-left Social Democrats, which governs with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, that Germany could face the arrival of even more migrants this year than the government had projected. “There are many indications that in this year we will not see 800,000 refugees, as predicted, but a million,” he said in a letter to his party.

“Germany is strong and can handle a lot,” Mr. Gabriel wrote. “Nevertheless, in the past few days we have experienced how, despite our best efforts, our abilities have reached their limits.”

Horst Seehofer, the premier of Bavaria, a deeply conservative state in the south, has criticized Ms. Merkel for her open-door policy. More than 25,000 migrants arrived in Bavaria over the weekend.

“There is no order, there is no system, and in a country governed by the rule of law, that is a cause for concern,” Mr. Seehofer told reporters on Sunday. He said that officials were straining to process and house thousands of newcomers, and that some of them were economic migrants, not people fleeing from persecution.

“We need better controls in general, because we have determined that in recent days, many of those on the move are really not refugees,” Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister, told a local television station. Officials in Eastern and Central Europe, including Hungary, have made similar arguments.

It was not immediately clear how long the German measures would remain in effect, but Mr. Herrmann estimated that they would last “at least a week.”

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The New York Times

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