Tuesday 23 January 2018

Germany accuses Austria of dumping refugees on border during darkness

A migrant arrives in Passau Germany
A migrant arrives in Passau Germany
Migrants arrive at the German border to Austria yesterday near Wegscheid, Germany.

Peter Johnson

The German government has accused Austria of driving refugees to the border between the two countries after dark so they could cross into Germany and said it expected Vienna to return to an orderly processing of migrants immediately.

"The behaviour of Austria in recent days was out of order," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference in Berlin, in the strongest public criticism of its neighbour since the refugee crisis deepened two months ago.

"We observed that refugees, without warning and after dark, were being driven to the German border without any provisions or forethought.

"There were intensive contacts. Austria agreed yesterday to return to an orderly process. I expect this to occur immediately," he said.

Authorities of the southern German state of Bavaria had criticised Austria for waving through thousands of migrants to Germany without giving local authorities any early notice.

Bavarian authorities, which are already struggling to cope with the record numbers, complained that the lack of co-ordination was leaving them scrambling at the last minute to find resources to welcome the new arrivals.

But Austrian authorities hit back, a police spokesman called it "a joke" that Bavaria was unable to process the new arrivals.

"The fact is if Austria receives 11,000 people in Spielfeld on a daily basis, Bavaria cannot say that it will just process up to 50 people an hour at its border. That's a joke," said Austrian police spokesman David Furtner.

Austria also said yesterday that it will have to build a fence along its border with Slovenia in an attempt to slow down the migrant flow.

"This is about ensuring an orderly, controlled entry into our country, not about shutting down the border," Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the interior minister, said.

Meanwhile, several thousands Czechs have used a national holiday - Independent Czechoslovak State Day - to rally against asylum seekers.

Yesterday's rallies in major cities across the country were organised by fringe political groupings and parties that are exploiting anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiments.

The biggest demonstration was in Brno, the country's second-largest city, where more than a thousand people turned out. Other protests in Prague, Liberec, Usti and Labem and Ostrava each mustered a few hundred protesters

Also yesterday, a group of German police officers has arrived in Slovenia, joining colleagues from Austria, as the small alpine nation struggles to manage the influx of tens of thousands of migrants.

Germany said it sent the five officers to prepare for a wider European deployment.

Slovenia has formally asked for EU assistance in manpower and equipment, complaining that large numbers of migrants streaming into the country have put too much strain on its police.

The government has also sent army troops to the border.

Several EU countries have responded positively to Slovenia's request. Eight police from Austria have been deployed since earlier this month, while Slovenian authorities say officers from Hungary and Slovakia could arrive within days.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer has called for better control of borders and the distribution of Syrian refugees.

While on a visit to Pristina, Kosovo yesterday, Mr Fischer said Austria was reaching its limited capacities, with an expectation of some 80,000 asylum requests.

So far this year, half a million refugees have passed through Austria, most of them in transit toward Germany, creating a lot of "organisational and logistic problems," he said.

Mr Fischer said there was nothing set on the possibility of building a fence along parts of his country's border.

"We should pay more attention to the problem of better checking the outside EU borders and a better distribution of the refugees within Europe," he said. "Only if the numbers are distributed equally could the burden be coped with."

Irish Independent

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