One Sunday afternoon in September: near the Bavarian border town of Furth im Wald, five Syrians are walking along the road that leads from the Czech Republic to Germany. The federal police patrol “seizes” him, as the press release says, and send them back.
The Federal Police Inspectorate in Waldmünchen, which is in charge of intensive internal searches along the 89-kilometer border with the Czech Republic, has been carrying out operations like this more frequently in recent weeks. And they are very welcome by the federal government. Because Syrians have also fled the war in their home country and are therefore entitled to protection. But Germany and the EU as a whole are currently trying to seal off the escape routes these people are also using to come.
Home Secretary Nancy Faeser (SPD) has said several times that she is concerned about the increasing number of illegal migrants who have recently arrived via the Balkan route. This Wednesday, Faeser, together with his European counterparts, met with the interior ministers of the Western Balkan countries. The issue of illegal migration is at the top of the agenda.
There are now more intensive controls on the border with the Czech Republic
According to EU figures, more than 86,000 people came to the EU via the Balkan route at the end of August – three times the same period last year. That is why the EU’s border protection agency Frontex must now be more present in the region, as Faeser announced together with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson after consultations. At the meeting it was also agreed that Serbia would change its visa policy.
Because apart from Turkey, which is currently cracking down on refugees at home in the upcoming election campaign, forcing them to flee further, the European Union has identified Serbia as the ringleader of pressure on Europe’s borders. Due to some old visa agreements, people from India and Tunisia, for example, can enter Serbia without a visa. Some seem to be making their way from there to Europe. Johansson said that a growing number of people from India, Cuba, Tunisia and Burundi were registered at the EU’s outer borders.
People in Serbia don’t believe that old visa agreements are the main problem with irregular migration to Europe. However, the country gave up before the meeting and tightened entry requirements for people from India, Burundi, Cuba and Tunisia. Those arriving from there must now present a paid return ticket with a fixed departure date.
Someone wants to protect people fleeing war and political persecution, Faeser said. But no one should “risk their life in danger on a perilous escape route” so as not to have the prospect of living in Europe, he said.
Police actually stopped Tunisians and Indians at the border with Bavaria. Most of the illegal migrants come from Syria and Afghanistan. If these refugees make it to the EU, they generally have a good chance of receiving protection status. However, they must perform procedures in accordance with the distribution rules applicable in the state where they were first registered. The Minister has taken practical steps to ensure that this is not too frequent in Germany, by intensifying searches on the border with the Czech Republic and also expanding border controls with Austria. Therefore, many people were barred from entering Germany.
In August alone, federal police inspections in Waldmünchen found a total of 325 people who had entered the country illegally, most of them Syrians. Three-quarters of them are prevented from entering the country. The men were sent back to the Czech Republic, including five Syrians. In that particular case, people have not applied for asylum, according to a statement from the Federal Interior Ministry.
Anyone who specifically requests asylum must at least first be taken to a refugee shelter. It is then checked where he was first registered and which country is responsible for the procedure. In Waldkirchen, this occurs in 18 percent of people. “What happens at the border ends up happening in the black box,” said Gisela Seidler, chair of the Migration Law Committee at the German Bar Association. It will not be possible to know whether Syrians have stated that they wish to apply for asylum in Germany. Lawyers call for an end to border controls that violate European law.
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