Germany reimposes border controls to slow migrant arrivals

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Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after Europe's most powerful nation acknowledged it could scarcely cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day.

A day before deeply divided European Union ministers tackle the migrant crisis, the U.N. refugee agency also called on every member state to take in a share of asylum-seekers under a Brussels plan which some countries are fiercely resisting.

Berlin announced that the temporary measure would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant arrivals have soared since Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively opened German borders to refugees a week ago.

"The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country," said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.


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Germany reimposes border controls to slow migrant arrivals
ROSZKE, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 14: Hundreds of migrants are packed on a train at Roszke train station destined for the Austrian border after the hungarian authorities closed the open railway track crossing today on September 14, 2015 in Roszke, Hungary. Hungary implements new laws to administer the influx of migrants and become enforceable tonight. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 08: A young Syrian boy cries as his father attempts to convince Hungarian police to allow his entire family to cross a police line for a train bound for Vienna, Austria at the Keleti railway station on September 8, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Migrants in Budapest are concerned that governments will soon close or severely limit continued travel access to Austria and Germany. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Migrants run over a field as their crowd broke out of at collection point near Roszke village at the Hungarian-Serbian border on September 9, 2015. Some 400-500 migrants on Wednesday broke through police lines in Hungary near the main crossing point from Serbia. AFP PHOTO / CSABA SEGESVARI (Photo credit should read CSABA SEGESVARI/AFP/Getty Images)
ROSZKE, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 09: Migrants climb over fences after running from a collection point that had been set up to transport people to camps on September 9, 2015 in Morahalom, Hungary. People became impatient at the lack of imformation, facilities and transport to the camps and decided to storm past police lines making their way in all directions. Thousands of migrants have continued to cross into Hungary over the last few days from Serbia. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
MORAHALOM, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 08: Men sleep in a field at a collection point as they wait for buses to take them to a refugee camp at dawn on September 8, 2015 in Morahalom, Hungary. Thousands of migrants have continued to cross into Hungary over the last few days from Serbia. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 04: Hundreds of migrants walk toward Austria border after leaving the transit zone of the Budapest main railway station Keleti, on September 04, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Hundreds of migrants broke out of a Hungarian border camp on Friday and others set off on foot from Budapest as authorities scrambled to contain a migrant crisis that has brought Europe's asylum system to breaking point. (Photo by Mehmet Yilmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 04: Hundreds of migrants walk toward Austria border after leaving the transit zone of the Budapest main railway station Keleti, on September 04, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Hundreds of migrants broke out of a Hungarian border camp on Friday and others set off on foot from Budapest as authorities scrambled to contain a migrant crisis that has brought Europe's asylum system to breaking point. (Photo by Mehmet Yilmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 04: Hundreds of migrants walk toward Austria border after leaving the transit zone of the Budapest main railway station Keleti, on September 04, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Hundreds of migrants broke out of a Hungarian border camp on Friday and others set off on foot from Budapest as authorities scrambled to contain a migrant crisis that has brought Europe's asylum system to breaking point. (Photo by Mehmet Yilmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, Sept. 3, 2015 -- Refugees jostle to get on a train heading to Austria at the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 3, 2015. Hungarian police stopped a train on Thursday on its way to the Hungary-Austria border, and tried to transfer all refugees on board to refugee reception sites. European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday European countries needed to do more in dealing with the migration crisis. (Xinhua/Attila Volgyi via Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, Sept. 3, 2015-- Refugees sit on the edge of the platform, waiting to board a train, at the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 3, 2015. Hungarian police stopped a train on Thursday on its way to the Hungary-Austria border, and tried to transfer all refugees on board to refugee reception sites. European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday European countries needed to do more in dealing with the migration crisis. (Xinhua/Attila Volgyi via Getty Images)
Migrants sit in front of the Keleti (East) railway station in Budapest on September 2, 2015. Hungarian authorities face mounting anger from thousands of migrants who are unable to board trains to western European countries after the main Budapest station was closed. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrant holds a sign reading 'We are under siege' as he sits with other migrants in front of the Keleti (East) railway station in Budapest on September 2, 2015. Hungarian authorities face mounting anger from thousands of migrants who are unable to board trains to western European countries after the main Budapest station was closed. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Hungarian police officers surround a group of Syrian migrants on the platform of the Kobanya-Kispest station, Budapest suburb, on September 2, 2015, as the refugees refused to board a train to the Debrecen camp. Hungarian authorities face mounting anger from thousands of migrants who are unable to board trains to western European countries after the main Budapest station was closed. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Open borders among the European countries which signed the Schengen Treaty are a crucial part of the EU project, but controls can be re-introduced, provided they are only temporary.

"The free movement of people under Schengen is a unique symbol of European integration," the EU's executive Commission said in a statement. "However, the other side of the coin is a better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping with the refugee crisis."

At an emergency meeting on Monday, interior ministers from the EU's 28 member states will discuss Commission proposals to redistribute about 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.

"We need swift progress on the Commission's proposals now," the Commission said in a statement issued as tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa made their way north.

EU envoys meeting on Sunday evening in Brussels failed to break the deadlock, with some eastern states still refusing to accept binding quotas of refugees. They argue the plan will draw more people to Europe and disrupt their homogeneous societies.

Amid the political bickering among European governments, the crisis claimed yet more lives. On Sunday 34 refugees, almost half of them babies and children, drowned off a Greek island when their boat sank, the coast guard said.

LIMIT OF ABILITY

Germany, Europe's largest and richest economy, has become a magnet for migrants making journeys by sea and land, often via Turkey and the Greek islands, and then onwards through the Balkans, Hungary and Austria. Police said around 13,000 arrived in the southern German city of Munich alone on Saturday, and another 3,000 on Sunday morning.

Now Germany has joined smaller and poorer countries such as Greece and Hungary that are struggling to manage the huge flow of desperate people.

As trains for Germany were stopped, groups of refugees and migrants camped out in an underground carpark in the Austrian city of Salzburg, near the border. Traffic backed up along one of the highways between the two countries.

Austrian news agency APA quoted Chancellor Werner Faymann as saying that Vienna would not introduce additional border controls for now but that the effect of Germany's decision on Austria was hard to predict.

Trains from Austria to Germany would be stopped until 5:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Monday, the interior minister of the state of Bavaria said. A Reuters photographer also saw a German police checkpoint on one of the Austrian roads into Germany.

German police on the border with Austria said they had detained 22 smugglers since Berlin implemented border controls. Forty-four migrants also were rounded up and taken by bus to registration centers, a police spokesman said.

Germany made clear it wanted EU partners to share the burden of welcoming thousands of refugees.

"It's true: the European lack of action in the refugee crisis is now pushing even Germany to the limit of its ability," Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is also vice-chancellor, told the website of Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

With large numbers of migrants stuck in squalid and chaotic conditions on European borders, or trudging along the side of motorways, Merkel last weekend stopped enforcing the EU's "Dublin" rules under which asylum seekers should register in whichever member state they first arrive in.

De Maiziere defended Merkel's decision but insisted the Dublin rules were still valid. "We need to quickly return to orderly procedures now," he added. "We can't allow refugees to freely choose where they want to stay - that's not the case anywhere in the world."

Most asylum seekers are refusing to stay in the poorer southern European countries where they arrive, such as Greece, and are instead making their way to Germany or Sweden where they anticipate a warmer welcome. Many Germans have greeted the arrivals with cheers and volunteers are flooding in to help.

CENTRAL EUROPE WARYCentral European countries are hostile to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's plan for spreading refugees around the bloc, and reject any suggestion of compulsory quotas.

"We are helping, we are ready to help, but on a voluntary basis," Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday. "The quotas won't work."

In neighboring Slovakia, Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said he would try to block quotas. "They don't make any sense ... and don't solve the crisis in any way," he said in a TV interview.

Poland said it might accept more migrants, but only if the EU secures its external borders; separates those who need help from economic migrants; and allows Warsaw a say in screening them from the point of security.

Meanwhile, the migrants continued to risk all on their journeys. The Greek coastguard said the 34 drowned off the island of Farmakonisi, almost certainly the largest death toll in those waters since the migrant crisis began.

In the space of 90 minutes, a Reuters photographer saw 10 dinghies packed with refugees arriving from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Further up the refugee route, 8,500 migrants entered Macedonia from Greece between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, the UNHCR said.

Hungarian state TV M1 reported that 8,000 to 10,000 migrants had crossed into Austria at Hegyeshalom by 6 p.m. and several thousand more were expected by the end of the day.

(Additional reporting by Jens Hack, Michael Shields, Tom Miles, Michele Kambas, Robert Muller, Bardh Krasniqi Alkis Konstantinidis, Francois Murphy, Sandor Peto, Marcin Goettig, Tatiana Jancarikova and Michael Dalder; Writing by David Stamp; Editing by William Hardy, Dominic Evans and Paul Simao)


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