EU borders tighten as Austria, Germany impose new controls
Published 15/09/2015 | 02:30
Europe's borders tightened yesterday as Germany's vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, warned that his country could receive up to one million people seeking refugee status.
Shortly after Germany imposed tighter border controls on its Austrian frontier, Austria and Slovakia followed suit.
Hungary also cracked down, closing the main border crossing for migrants entering from Serbia.
Amid the tightening of controls, EU ministers held emergency talks in Brussels, where they formally approved an initial plan to relocate 40,000 of the refugees.
However, they failed to get unanimous approval for the plan for the other 120,000.
Meanwhile, Austria has put 2,200 soldiers on standby to help with the relief effort for the stranded refugees.
It was widely anticipated that a pledge to increase reception facilities in the frontline states of Greece and Italy would be issued.
It is also understood that the EU has approved military action against people smugglers in the Mediterranean, seizing and if necessary destroying boats.
Earlier in Brussels, the Czech Republic and Slovakia vehemently opposed plans to introduce compulsory refugee quotas.
It was also revealed in Germany that Berlin's famous Nazi-era Tempelhof airport is to become a refugee shelter.
The airport, which has been disused since 2008, will house up to 1,200 refugees in two former hangars, the Berlin state government announced.
The airport is famous both for its Nazi past and as the scene of the Berlin Airlift, when the Western Allies thwarted Soviet attempts to starve West Berlin into submission by flying supplies in.
Meanwhile, in Hungary it is understood that officials were ushering migrants straight to the Austrian border.
According to the UN refugee agency, Budapest is transporting thousands of migrants and refugees to the Austrian border, suggesting it is no longer registering them.
"Our information is that special trains are taking migrants from Roszke (train) station direct without stopping to the Austrian border," Erno Simon, a Hungary spokesman for the UNHCR Regional Representation for Central Europe, said.
The UNHCR says the traffic over the border at Roszke, the main crossing point between Serbia and Hungary, had slowed yesterday.
In Germany, while police were carrying out passport checks on the border with Austria, those with a genuine claims to asylum were still being allowed in, according to 'Spiegel' magazine.
"Basically, little has changed," an unnamed police officer said. "If we really closed the border, we'd see scenes like Hungary straight away."
The imposition of border controls was more about sending a message to other EU countries ahead of the talks in Brussels than stopping refugees, the report claims.
While the official line is that those without passports or EU national ID cards will not be allowed across, refugees claiming asylum are taken by the police to clearing houses, where they are registered, whether they have passports or not, according to the report.
The measure appears to be designed to prevent economic migrants from entering.
But the police officer told 'Spiegel': "They all present themselves as Syrians, even if they are obviously black Africans." (© Daily Telegraph, London)