- Berlin says measures will lead to increased policing along ‘smuggling routes’
- Left-wing Foreign Minister Nancy Faeser said that if nothing was done to protect Europe’s external borders, then “open borders within the EU would be in danger”.
Germany warned that the Schengen zone would be “in danger” if the EU failed to protect its external borders, as Berlin imposes new controls on its borders with Poland and the Czech Republic after an influx of migrants.
Germany saw its first asylum applications increase by 78% in the first seven months of 2023, according to official data. In August, illegal border crossings into Germany reached 14,701, an increase of 66% compared to the same month last year, according to police data.
The new checks will lead to increased police along “smuggling routes” and will start immediately, a Berlin official said today.
Announcing the new measures on Wednesday, Germany’s interior minister said more should be done to protect the European UnionThe country’s fragile open border system.
“If we fail to better protect the external borders…the open borders within the EU are in danger,” Nancy Faeser told journalists in Berlin.
She said the new measures would focus on people smugglers, who she said facilitated the passage of a quarter of migrants entering Germany.
“We want to prevent evasive movements of smugglers through flexible and mobile controls in changing locations,” she said, adding that the measures would be initiated together with Poland and the Czech Republic.
The announcement comes a day after police raids in Germany discovered more than 100 Syrian citizens in apartments searched as part of a smuggling ring.
Faeser did not give details on how many additional border police officers would be deployed, but stressed that no fixed border controls would be installed as Germany does along the border with the Austria since 2015. To introduce such controls, Germany would have to inform the European Commission.
She said new border controls would complement mobile police patrols that already check cars crossing the border or people trying to enter Germany on foot.
“We must put an end to the cruel activities of smugglers who put human lives at risk for maximum profit,” Faeser said.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner wrote on Wednesday on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, that his ministry would support strengthening border controls with additional customs officers.
“Border controls must be intensified to put an end to smuggling and illegal immigration,” he wrote. “To ensure this is completed quickly, I have decided that customs will support this urgent task with 500 employees.”
Many migrants from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey and other countries try to reach Germany to seek asylum.
Cities and towns across Germany have sounded the alarm over the growing number of arrivals, saying they lack the space to accommodate them and provide them with places in kindergartens and schools.
As a result, migration is high on the agenda in Europe’s largest economy, ahead of a series of regional elections in which the far right hopes to strengthen its influence, starting by the polls in Bavaria and Hesse on October 8.
Municipalities have called for more funding to deal with arrivals, highlighting difficulties with accommodation and services reminiscent of 2015, when Germany took in more than a million refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
This year, more than 220,000 people applied for asylum in Germany between January and August.
During 2022, around 240,000 people applied for asylum. These figures are still far from those of 2015-2016, when more than a million migrants requested asylum in Germany.
However, in addition to migrants, Germany has also taken in more than a million Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s brutal war against their country.
About a quarter of all migrants who reach Germany arrive with the help of smugglers on dangerous routes across the Mediterranean Sea and through forests along the Balkan route, Faeser said.
They usually pay thousands of dollars to reach Germany.
However, even if migrants are stopped at the border by police because they do not have valid entry documents, they can still come to Germany if they apply for asylum.
“We want to prevent the elusive movements of smugglers through flexible and mobile controls with every change of location,” Faeser said.
“At the same time, we will ensure that the controls have as little impact as possible on people, commuters and everyday commerce.”
Faeser also stressed that “for a significant reduction in irregular migration, a common European asylum system remains the decisive step”, meaning that the EU’s external borders must be strictly controlled so that migrants cannot not even reaching countries like Germany, located in the center of the country. the block.
Before the elections in his state, Bavaria’s conservative prime minister, Markus Soeder, proposed setting the number of asylum seekers per year at 200,000 – a proposal rejected by Faeser.
The latest increase in this number comes as thousands of migrants traveling on boats from North Africa have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Two weeks ago, Germany announced that it would suspend a deal with Italy to welcome some of its arrivals, arguing that Rome was not respecting long-contested rules dictating that asylum requests must be processed within the European country of first arrival.
Faeser withdrew this decision a few days later, in light of the ongoing crisis in Lampedusa.
The increase in arrivals has also led to tensions with Germany’s neighbor Poland, which has said it may introduce border controls.
Warsaw on Tuesday, weeks before its own national elections, began checking some vehicles crossing the Slovak border, suspecting they were carrying illegal migrants.
This week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wrote this weekend to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz complain about Berlin’s funding of charitable projects intended to help migrants at sea or on land in Italy.
“I learned with astonishment that your administration – without coordination with the Italian government – would have decided to support with substantial funds non-governmental organizations engaged in welcoming irregular migrants on Italian territory and in rescues in the Mediterranean Sea” , wrote Meloni. .
The right-wing Meloni party pursues a hard line against illegal immigration, but Italy has seen an increase in migrant arrivals this year, with some 133,000 landing so far, compared to around 69,800 during the same period in 2022.
Rome accuses NGO boats carrying out rescue missions in the central Mediterranean – the world’s deadliest sea crossing for migrants – of encouraging arrivals from North Africa.
As part of its efforts, Meloni’s government has sought to limit the activities of charity rescue ships operating in the central Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest sea crossing for migrants, drawing the ire of other EU countries .