Scholz under pressure after sharp rise in illegal border crossings into Germany

Chancellor’s plans to tighten border controls as refugee numbers increase criticised by humanitarian groups

The number of illegal border crossings into Germany has increased markedly since the start of the year, according to authorities, as the government of Olaf Scholz comes under growing pressure to tighten controls.

Just under 20,000 people entered the country illegally between January and the end of March, a 50% increase on the same period last year.

Last week, Scholz announced plans to increase border controls on each of Germany’s nine borders, at the same time as saying he would be urging European Union partners to support the erection of asylum centres on the edge of the bloc.

An alliance of more than 50 humanitarian organisations in Germany called on the government on Wednesday to rethink its plans, which it described as a “glaring contradiction” to central promises in the coalition agreement. In particular, the group urged Scholz to drop his plans to carry out asylum processes for arrivals on the EU border, insisting it would undermine refugee protection laws and lead to humanitarian violations. It compared the proposed asylum centres to prisons.

The attempt to create a common European asylum system is to be a central talking point at a meeting of EU interior ministers next month.

According to police representatives, since the tightening of controls on the Austrian border, where most migrants have arrived in recent years, a shift has taken place with a growing number of people now arriving over the Polish border.

This year, 4,000 of what they referred to as irregular crossings have taken place there, of people mostly from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Turkey. In particular, authorities have noted an increase in the number of people arriving from Russia-controlled Belarus. As a result there have been calls for temporary controls on the Polish and Czech borders.

Andreas Roßkopf, of the police trade union GdP, said the police were opposed to intensifying border controls, as had already taken place on the Austrian border where most arrivals came during the refugee crisis of 2015, because the task was too large to handle.

“We’re talking about several thousand kilometres of internal Schengen border that would need to be controlled. But the federal police is technically and staff-wise not in the position to be able to carry out permanent controls on the borders of Germany’s neighbours,” he said.

Recently, the interior ministers of Brandenburg, Saxony and Baden-Württemberg spoke out in favour of controls on the Polish border, as well as on Germany’s border with Switzerland. At a so-called refugee summit last week, involving state leaders and the federal government, participants agreed to keep the option of expanding controls in reserve in case the situation made it necessary.

Roßkopf said the government needed to consider supplying the police with better equipment. “What helps are modern border control mechanisms, like powerful vehicles equipped with the necessary technology, drones for a better surveillance of the border from the air and better collaboration with border police from neighbouring countries,” he said.

Heiko Teggatz, the head of the federal police trade union DpoLG, has recommended the temporary introduction of border controls until other EU countries show they are ready to properly control their own outer borders to the EU, amid accusations that some migrants are deliberately being pushed towards Germany.

“Those who simply wave people through without controlling them or refuse to take people back are provoking the whole internal border control system and are jeopardising the EU’s freedom of movement,” he said earlier this month.

The federal police’s migration analysis report for April, which was leaked to German media, warned that the number of migrants coming to Germany was likely to rise considerably over the coming months.

It cited the elections in Turkey as one of the reasons, pointing to the 4 million refugees in Turkey, most of them from Syria and many of whom are living in very poor conditions and whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reportedly been sending out of the country to release opposition pressure on him.

Many of them are travelling on Russian visas via Belarus and into the EU, to Poland and the Czech Republic and on to Germany, according to the report.


Kate Connolly in Berlin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Germany urges unity as crisis worsens for migrants at Poland-Belarus border
German interior minister says Poland needs support to deal with ‘hybrid threat’ of politically organised migration

Andrew Roth in Moscow with agencies

09, Nov, 2021 @10:45 AM

Article image
EU moves toward Belarus sanctions after crackdown on protests
Foreign ministers agree individuals responsible for vote-rigging and violence should face asset freezes and travel bans

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

14, Aug, 2020 @5:48 PM

Article image
Helping refugees starving in Poland’s icy border forests is illegal – but it’s not the real crime | Anna Alboth
The asylum seekers on the Poland-Belarus border are not aggressors: they are desperate pawns in a disgusting political struggle

Anna Alboth

08, Dec, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Turkey bans citizens from Syria, Yemen and Iraq from flying to Minsk
Move comes amid standoff between Belarus and EU over arrival of thousands of people at Polish border

Andrew Roth in Moscow and Lisa O'Carroll

12, Nov, 2021 @3:51 PM

Article image
Poland criticised over stranded migrants after seventh death at border
Identity documents suggest latest person to die was 24-year-old Syrian who arrived in Belarus last month

Jon Henley

15, Oct, 2021 @2:01 PM

Article image
As Covid cases rise again, how are countries in Europe reacting?
Tighter measures are being imposed, but they vary across the continent

European correspondents

23, Sep, 2020 @2:39 PM

Article image
Bitter divisions over migration threaten show of unity at EU summit
Germany and Italy criticise proposal by European council president, Donald Tusk, who described refugee quotas as ‘divisive’

Jennifer Rankin Brussels

14, Dec, 2017 @6:04 PM

Article image
Austria tightens border controls as Hungary frees convicted people smugglers
Budapest blames EU for decision to release foreign detainees provided they leave country within 72 hours

Lisa O'Carroll Brussels correspondent

23, May, 2023 @1:55 PM

Article image
EU tells six countries to lift Covid border restrictions
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden put on notice over curbs to free movement

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

23, Feb, 2021 @4:40 PM

Article image
European elections 2019: Tories unlikely to deliver on Brexit, says Farage – as it happened
Across EU, voters boost Greens and far right to leave centrist groups diminished

Patrick Greenfield, Sam Jones , Alison Rourke, Mattha Busby, Jennifer Rankin and Kevin Rawlinson

27, May, 2019 @9:17 PM