EU refugee crisis: Germany adds temporary border controls to stem influx

Germany will introduce temporary border checks on the Austrian frontier in a bid to limit the influx of refugees, a "significant move" for the EU, which prides itself on borderless travel.

Munich struggles with nearly 13,000 more asylum seekers from Syria, other countries

Germany will introduce temporary border checks on the Austrian frontier in a bid to limit the influx of refugees, the interior minister said Sunday.

The measure might lead to disruption of railway services, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said without giving further details.

Germany and Austria agreed over a week ago to let in refugees who had gathered in Hungary, saying it was a one-time measure to ease an emergency. Still, the influx has continued and German officials said over the weekend that the speed of the arrivals was straining the country's ability to provide accommodation.

It's a significant move because the European Union prided itself on borderless travel.- Freelance journalist Lucian Kim

Hungarian police say more than 186,000 people have passed through Hungary from Serbia this year en route to Austria and the refugees' major destination, Germany, which says it has taken in more than 50,000 newcomers in the past week alone.

About 450,000 refugees have arrived in Germany this year. The country is expecting at least 800,000 in 2015 — by far the most in the 28-nation EU.

Freelance journalist Lucian Kim, reporting from Berlin, told CBC News there are reports that Germany officials also plan to suspend train travel between Austria and Germany for 24 hours.

"It's a significant move because the European Union prided itself on borderless travel," Kim said, regarding the border checks.
Hungarian police officers stand guard as refugees arrive by train at the railway station in the town of Hegyeshalom next to the Austrian Hungarian border on Sunday. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

The news comes amid growing evidence that Munich, as the main entry point for the new arrivals, is struggling to cope with the latest wave of refugees, who appear to be largely from Syria.

"About 13,000 arrived just yesterday," said Kim. "Since the start of the month, it has been 63,000."

Earlier Sunday, de Maiziere said refugees coming from Syria and other conflict zones would not get to choose what country they go to under a proposed European Union quota system to share the burden of new arrivals.

Syrian refugee Asmaa wipes tears as she waits for a train on the platform at the main railway station in Munich, on Sept. 13. (Michaela Rehle/Reuters)

Under EU rules, the first country of entry is required to deal with the asylum seeker's request for shelter, but Germany has waived the rule.

Germany, which is a favoured European destination for refugees, wants an agreement on quotas but faces resistance from several other countries.

De Maiziere was quoted Sunday as telling the Tagesspiegel daily that if refugees get protection in Europe they must accept being distributed around the EU.

He said "there can be no free choice of residence for refugees. That doesn't exist anywhere in the world."

Syrian refugees wait for their turn to enter Macedonia at Greece's border, on Sept. 11. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

EU to meet Monday in Brussels

The Czech prime minister says that his country has deployed more police to the Austrian-Czech border in response to Germany's decision to renew border controls along its border with Austria in a bid to limit an influx of refugees.

Bohuslav Sobotka says the measure was taken "to ensure that laws and rules inside the Schengen zone are not violated."

Sobotka said Sunday that the government will assess the situation on a regular basis and will take further security measures if needed.

The U.N. refugee agency says border control measures announced by European countries underline the urgency of "a comprehensive European response" to the crisis.

European Union interior ministers will meet on Monday amid deep divisions in the 28-nation bloc over how to handle the influx of refugees and others seeking a better life. 

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said an EU response should include "the rapid implementation of a relocation program" to spread refugees among all EU countries. Many nations are resisting that.

Munich stretched to the limit

In Munich, several of the migrants could be seen taking shelter at the main train station. Others were being transported by bus to shelters across Bavaria.

Federal police spokesman Simon Hegewald said more than 700 people fleeing their homelands arrived at the city's main station on Sunday morning. Police didn't immediately have an estimate of how many more might land during the day.

Officials in Munich were putting up tents but say their capacity to house the newcomers arriving from Hungary via Austria is being stretched to the limit. They are calling for more help from other places in Germany.

Hegewald said three special trains from Munich were planned Sunday to move refugees onto other destinations in the country.

Also Sunday, the Hungarian army continued its deployment along the country's border with Serbia.

Hungarian border reinforced

Around a dozen soldiers, some with dogs, and several army jeeps were seen at the Roszke section of the border fence, watching refugees cross into the country through a gap in the fence and down a widely used trail. The soldiers were not interfering with the migration.

Refugees struggle with an elderly woman in a wheelchair as they cross the Hungarian border with Serbia in Roszke, Hungary, on Sept. 12. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

It was not clear if the deployment was part of the ongoing army drills, launched earlier this week to prepare the army to assist the police in guarding the border, or in expectation of next week's live deployment.

Hungary's parliament is expected to vote next week to authorize the army for this deployment.

Many of the refugees who are escaping the conflict in Syria have crossed the Mediterranean into southern Europe, transiting through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and then Hungary, with the goal of reaching Germany.

More than 4,000 people walked across Hungary's border with Serbia on Saturday, as crews worked to seal the frontier.

They're rushing into Hungary before new emergency laws take effect on Tuesday, making it illegal to enter the country without a visa.

An estimated 175,000 refugees have crossed from Serbia into Hungary so far this year.

Read more about the refugee crisis:

With files from CBC News and Reuters


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