Germany intensifies controls against illegal migration at the Polish and Czech borders | International

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A German officer asks a vehicle to stop near the border with Poland, in Bademeusel, on September 20.LISI NIESNER (REUTERS)

Germany has proposed to stop the wave of illegal migration that arrives daily through the border of more than 1,000 kilometers on the eastern flank, which borders Poland and the Czech Republic. The police will intensify controls to find people smugglers who introduce migrants along the roads and highways that link Germany with its neighbors. The Minister of the Interior, the Social Democrat Nancy Faeser, has ordered the Federal Police to establish additional and priority controls on smuggling routes, which will be “flexible,” she assured in an appearance this Wednesday in Berlin. This means that, at least for the moment, the fixed checkpoints against which the main police union had protested and which posed an economic threat by disrupting the free movement of people and goods will not be installed.

Faeser's order is effective immediately and will mean the arrival of more troops to the eastern border. From now on, the Federal Police must intensify controls and try to get ahead of traffickers to locate their routes and make travel difficult. The number of federal agents assigned to border control has been increasing in recent months and the federal states have also reinforced their staff. “We must put an end to the cruel business of smugglers who endanger human lives to obtain maximum profit,” said the minister. “My goal is maximum investigative pressure on smugglers and the protection of people who are often smuggled across borders without water and hardly any oxygen,” added Faeser.

Germany is preparing a shift in immigration policy in the face of the substantial increase in immigrants and asylum seekers. The states most affected by this flow of people in need of help say they are overwhelmed and are putting pressure on the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to intervene as soon as possible. On the one hand, they demand more funds to house them and ensure their integration. On the other hand, they demand measures at the borders to reduce arrivals. Between January and August, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) registered more than 204,000 initial asylum applications, an increase of 77% compared to the same period last year. The most numerous nationalities are Syrian, Afghan, Turkish and Iraqi, in that order. To this we must add the more than a million Ukrainians who have sought protection in Germany due to the Russian war of aggression without having to request asylum.

Berlin is in contact with Poland and the Czech Republic to speed up controls. Faeser has assured that he has already spoken with his Czech counterpart and that he will address the issue with the Polish official at the meeting of European Union interior ministers taking place this Thursday in Brussels. The goal of the talks is to allow “flexible and mobile” controls to be agile and change locations quickly to throw off traffickers. Faeser's words seem to confirm that fixed controls have been ruled out to avoid the enormous impact they would have on the mobility of the many people who live and work on different sides of the border and on trade and freight routes. Despite this, the increase in controls will have effects on cross-border traffic, he has acknowledged.

Until a few weeks ago, the minister assured that the existing controls were sufficient, but pressure from the border states and the opposition has forced the tripartite of social democrats, greens and liberals to announce new measures. Federal agents will not only carry out checks on the border line, but will also enter Polish or Czech territory to collaborate with their police, the German Interior Ministry has announced.

Faeser has highlighted that the solution to the problem is “European”. To significantly reduce irregular immigration, what is decisive is the common European asylum system, he stressed. Germany wants those arriving at the EU's external borders to be controlled and registered, something that does not happen now. The majority of protection applicants arrive in Germany without any prior documentation of their passage through other States. Berlin also wants those who are rejected to be returned directly from there.

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What is happening now is that third-country nationals who request protection already in Germany are sent to reception centers to examine their request for asylum or possible transfers to other EU Member States, in accordance with the Dublin regulation. According to this agreement, the State responsible for processing applications is the one to which the applicant arrives first, but countries like Italy refuse to execute it, which has caused tensions with the German Government, which has suspended voluntary reception “until further notice.” of asylum seekers from Italy.

Germany has maintained fixed border controls on the border with Austria since 2015. If a Member State decides to restrict the free movement of people and goods in the Schengen area in this way, it must notify the European Union. In this case, communication is not necessary, although the European Commission stressed this Wednesday that it has been in contact with Berlin and that it is aware of the measure. A spokesperson for the Community Executive also assures that Germany has done so “in coordination” with the Polish and Czech authorities. Brussels has stressed that the measure is different from the restriction of the Schengen area. “It is a type of alternative measure that we consider useful. The Commission has promoted the use of these temporary alternative measures since 2017,” said the spokesperson, reports Maria R. Sahuquillo.

The German Federal Police has detected some 71,000 unauthorized entries throughout the country so far this year. According to their data, almost one in four third-country citizens who enter Germany without permission does so clandestinely. In the first eight months of this year alone, the Federal Police recorded a total of more than 1,550 human trafficking operations and arrested around 1,700 suspects. Of particular concern, as Faeser has highlighted, is the so-called “container smuggling” because it endangers people's lives by transporting them for hours in a closed space without food, water or ventilation. “Traffickers are increasingly ruthless and brutal with trafficked people,” says the Ministry of the Interior in a note.

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