Berlin may reinstate EU border controls

BERLIN • Germany might reintroduce border controls if European Union member states fail to better implement rules that govern the transfer of migrants from outside the area, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said yesterday.

"I'm in favour of free borders, I'm a committed European, but if other European states don't adhere to the law and the Dublin system no longer works, then we need another system that works," Mr de Maiziere told ZDF German public television.

Germany may receive as many as 800,000 people fleeing war and poverty this year, about four times last year's number. Many of them are Syrians and others fleeing turmoil in the Middle East, or Africans escaping from war. Germany also has a large influx from the impoverished states of the western Balkans: Albania and the former Yugoslavia.

Mr de Maiziere had earlier said Germany cannot take in 40 per cent of asylum seekers arriving in the 28-nation EU indefinitely.

While Germany will work to process asylum applications faster, change procedures and increase accommodation for new arrivals, "it is also time for European solutions, and it is time to think how we can bring down such numbers for Germany in future", he said.

Absorbing the surge of foreigners is moving towards the top of Chancellor Angela Merkel's agenda after euro-area governments crafted a third bailout for Greece.

"Control-free borders won't be permanent in the long run without a true European asylum policy," Mr de Maiziere said.

The EU's so-called Dublin regulation lays down the criteria and mechanisms for dealing with asylum applications and says that an EU member state that allows migrants to cross its border irregularly is responsible for examining their asylum applications. The Schengen Agreement allows free movement without border controls across much of the EU.

According to figures through June from Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, Hungary has registered 32,800 refugees this year, Italy 15,200, France 14,800, Sweden 11,400, Austria 9,700 and Britain 7,300.

The figures for Hungary suggest that migrants who go from Turkey to Greece are then making their way through the Balkans towards the richer nations of the EU. Hungary, a nation of about 10 million people, is building a fence to try to prevent the arrivals from crossing into its territory.

Mr de Maiziere said he had not only reorganised Germany's bureaucracy to coordinate better between the federal, state and local authorities but would also work with European colleagues to resolve the issue.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'Berlin may reinstate EU border controls'. Print Edition | Subscribe