Germany will introduce new border controls with Poland and the Czech Republic this week, the German interior minister announced on Wednesday, saying that more should be done to protect the European Union’s fragile system of open borders.
Germany saw its first-time asylum requests rise by 78 per cent in the first seven months of 2023, according to official data. In August, registered illegal border crossings to Germany reached 14,701, up 66 per cent on the same month last year, police data shows.
"If we do not succeed in better protecting the external borders ..., then the open borders within the EU are in danger," Nancy Faeser told reporters in Berlin.
She said the focus of the new measures would be people smugglers, which she said facilitated the passage of a quarter of the migrants entering Germany.
"We want to prevent evasive movements of smugglers through flexible and mobile controls at changing locations," she said, adding that the measures would be initiated in concert with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Czech police have increased random checks on the Slovak border as well as on highways to Germany, Czech police president Martin Vondrasek said.
Migration features high on the agenda in Germany ahead of a string of state elections in which the far right is hoping to boost its sway, starting with polls in Bavaria and Hesse on October 8th.
Municipalities have called for more funding to cope with arrivals, pointing to stretched accommodation and services reminiscent of 2015, when Germany took in more than one million refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
As well as the increase in illegal border crossings, Germany has also taken in about one million Ukrainian refugees over the past year. They are not included in the asylum request figures, because it is automatically granted if it is requested.
Ahead of the election in his state, Bavaria’s conservative premier Markus Soeder suggested an upper limit on asylum seekers of 200,000 annually — a proposal rejected by Ms Faeser.
The minister is also fighting an election campaign in her home state Hesse, where she is the Social Democrats' top candidate.
She did not give details on the measures, adding that this information could play into the hands of criminal networks.
Previously, there have been random police checks on the borders and Germany has maintained stationary controls on the Bavarian border with Austria since 2015.
The latest increase in numbers comes as thousands of migrants travelling on boats from North Africa have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Two weeks ago, Germany said it would suspend an agreement with Italy to take in some of its arrivals, arguing that Rome was not sticking to long-contested rules dictating that asylum applications should be processed in the EU country of first arrival.
Ms Faeser withdrew that decision within days in light of the unfolding crisis on Lampedusa.
The surge in arrivals has also led to tensions with Germany's neighbour Poland, which said it may introduce border checks.
“Today’s decision by Germany is the result of activity on the Balkan migration route. The Polish government believes that it is necessary to strengthen Europe’s southern borders to prevent such a situation. The issue of sealing borders in southern Europe needs to be solved,” said Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller.
Warsaw yesterday, weeks ahead of its own national election, began conducting checks on some vehicles crossing the Slovak border, suspecting they could be carrying illegal migrants. — Reuters
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