Germany admits turning away an increasing number of migrants at Austrian border

Migrants rest at a temporary camp after German officials sent them back to Austria on Jan 12, 2016.
Migrants rest at a temporary camp after German officials sent them back to Austria on Jan 12, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (AFP, REUTERS) - Germany on Tuesday (Jan 12) admitted that it was refusing entry to an increasing number of migrants seeking to cross over from Austria, which will also take tougher action to turn away economic migrants to reduce overall immigration.

"It is true that the number is higher in the past days," said a German federal police spokesman, adding however that the number of people turned away at the border was in the "high double-digits to low triple-digits and therefore still within daily fluctuations".

"There have not been any changes policy-wise," he added.

The spokesman explained that migrants seeking entry are asked for their travel documents and those without papers are asked if they intended to make asylum applications in Germany.

Those seeking to travel on to Sweden for instance, or who have already filed for asylum in Austria would not be granted entry.

Migrants entering Germany with the intention of finding employment without prior permits are also turned away, he added.

The number of refused entries is still dwarfed by that of those allowed to enter Germany, with police saying that daily figures ranged from 290 to 3,050 in the first few days of January.

The Austrian authorities had said on Monday that Germany was now turning away 200 migrants daily since the start of the year, from around 60 in last December.

Those refused entry are mostly Afghans as well as Moroccans and Algerians who did not want to apply for asylum in Germany but in other countries, notably Scandinavia.

Austria is a major transit country for the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees seeking to enter the European Union, mostly via Upper Austria state at a rate currently of 1,000-2,000 per day.

Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, from the conservative junior coalition party, said Austria was under pressure to act on a national level in the absence of help from EU neighbours.

“I see nothing on the European level that points in the direction of taking actions,” Mitterlehner told reporters, pointing to slow progress in setting up so-called hotspots on Europe’s outer borders to speed up asylum processes.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said so-called Dublin rules had to be applied more firmly again, which would allow sending migrants back to the EU state they first arrived in.  She also described as economic migrants those who fled from war, but travelled through several EU countries to settle in one they considered more affluent, such as Sweden or Germany, which is currently sending hundreds of migrants back to Austria. 

Last week, Sweden, a favoured destination for many of the migrants, sought to stem the flow by imposing controls on travellers from Denmark.

Denmark in turn introduced spot checks on arrivals from Germany.