GERMANY – Angela Merkel imposes border controls to slow migrant arrivals
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. [The borders between European Union countries were opened under the Schengen agreement 30 years ago. –See video under “Resources” below.]
A day before deeply divided European Union ministers met to discuss 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 [Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s administration] announced that the temporary measure would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant arrivals have soared since the Chancellor 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. …
“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.”
Interior ministers from the EU’s 28 member states held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the EU’s 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. These countries argue the plan will draw more people to Europe and by bringing in such a huge influx of Muslims, forever change their society. …
Germany, Europe’s largest and richest economy, has become a magnet for the Muslim 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.
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 better life.
SLOVAKIA – Slovakia considers a veto of migrant quotas in EU vote
Seeking to solve the current crisis connected with the influx of refugees from the war-torn Middle East, the European Commission held a vote on September 14 about the plan to re-distribute migrants according to obligatory quotas among member states.
Slovakia and other central-European countries will veto the proposal.
The vote will take place as part of the European Union’s summit of interior and justice ministers. Slovakia and its V4 partners – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – have expressed their opposing stance on this issue and may vote against the quotas program. However, even if the V4 countries vote against it, their veto may be overridden. To pass the plan of quotas – which would bring 2,287 refugees to Slovakia – a mere qualified majority is needed.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in an interview that Slovakia would veto the findings and decisions of the European Commission concerning the introduction of a system of obligatory quotas for migrants. He also expressed this stance on Sunday, September 13, at his meeting with the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The European Union does not want to convene an extraordinary summit on the migrant crisis because it’s afraid of the truth, as some countries support civil war in Syria, Fico added. He said the migration crisis is the biggest crisis since WWII and the power to make decisions on it should not be reserved just for bureaucrats in Brussels.
Questioning why only the ministers would meet instead of convening an extraordinary summit on the migrant crisis, Prime Minister Fico asked, “Why do they refuse to convene a summit [of the Prime Ministers of all EU countries, as opposed to only a summit of EU Commission ministers]? They don’t want one because they’re afraid of the truth… and they have difficulty in arriving at unanimous decisions.”
The Slovak government does not expect any decision on the mandatory migrant resettlement quotas to be reached at the EU summit, as Slovakia is determined to exercise its right to veto, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said in an interview on September 13. “I have a mandate – not only from the Slovak government but also parliament – to veto any and all proposals promulgating the quotas because not only are they senseless, but they’re also directed against migrants while falling short of tackling the crisis in any way,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. And to CNN: “Quotas cannot be imposed on countries. Migrants want to move from one country to another. We should concentrate on camps instead and differentiate between illegal migrants and asylum-seekers.”
Any constructive decision might be passed only if there is a willingness to also listen to arguments from central-European countries, a development that Kaliňák considers unlikely given that the EU has failed to convene a summit of prime ministers on the issue. He added that quotas will not save migrants, and that the EU should concede that the current migration wave heading to Europe through the Balkans is illegal and should devote more effort to protecting the EU’s external borders, as Slovakia does.
The Slovak government says that in the face of the current migration crisis it is capable of integrating 200 Syrian Christians, Minister Kaliňák said on Saturday.
“We already met that figure. We know the people; we’re currently conducting interviews with them and will transport them here. We know they’ll integrate and be a great addition to our society. But let’s not foolishly entertain the notion of having a mass of 50,000 people, as directed by Brussels’ administrative decision, all of a sudden come to Slovakia,” added Kalinak.
According to Kalinak, the main task facing international community is to put a stop to Syrian military conflict.
HUNGARY – Police close main entry point for migrants from Serbia
Hungarian police on Monday closed off the main crossing point for migrants entering from Serbia, becoming the latest Schengen-zone country to reimpose border controls following a similar move by Germany on Sunday.
Around 20 police officers fenced off a 40-meter gap in a razor-wire barrier along the border by a railway line as other officers blocked the track.
A growing group of several dozen migrants including many children, some in strollers, were stuck on the Serbian side of the border, with several women crying.
EU member Hungary is on the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis, with almost 200,000 people traveling from Greece through the western Balkans to enter the country this year, most of them seeking to continue to northern Europe.
Police said a record 5,809 people had entered on Sunday, smashing the previous day’s record of 4,330 despite coils of razorwire being unrolled along the Serbian border.
By around midday local time on Monday another 5,353 people had been intercepted, police said.
The sharp increase came ahead of tough laws coming into force on Tuesday under which people entering Hungary illegally can be jailed for up to three years.
Hungary is also building a 13-foot high fence all along its 110-mile border with Serbia that it intends to complete by the end of October or early November (see NBC News video under “Resources” below).
Most of the migrants – mostly Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis – seek to travel onwards to Austria and then further into Western Europe, often Germany or Sweden.
Germany reimposed border controls on Sunday after more than 13,000 migrants arrived in Munich in a single day on Saturday.
Austria and Slovakia said on Monday that they would follow suit, with Vienna planning to deploy around 2,200 military personnel.
(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Reuters on Sept. 13, the Slovak Spectator & China Daily on Sept. 13 and France24 on Sept. 14.)
1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
b) location/the countries that share its borders
c) the religious breakdown of the population
d) the type of government
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch
f) the population
[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.
NOTE: If WorldFactBook appears outdated for any country, go to Wikipedia – search there for “Religion in ___” or “Politics of ____” for the leaders. Or do an internet search for “Population of ___.”]
NOTE to students: Before answering the questions below, read the info under “Background” and watch the videos under “Resources.”
2. For GERMANY:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) On Tuesday, Aug. 25, Germany announced that they would no longer enforce Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens (asylum rules that require all migrants to be processed in the first EU country they enter). As a result, an increasing number of migrants headed toward Germany. What do you think of the latest news that Germany has now re-imposed border controls? Explain your answer.
3. For SLOVAKIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What did Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák say about the EU commission’s attempt to impose quotas on the number of migrants each EU country must take? Be specific.
c) The Slovak government says that in the face of the current migration crisis it is capable of integrating 200 Syrian Christians, Minister Kaliňák said on Saturday. “We know they’ll integrate and be a great addition to our society. But let’s not foolishly entertain the notion of having a mass of 50,000 people, as directed by Brussels’ [EU commissioners] administrative decision, all of a sudden come to Slovakia,” added Kalinak.
Consider the population and religious breakdown of Slovakia. Do you think think the government is being unreasonable? Explain your answer.
d) What does Mr. Kaliňák say is the main task facing international community regarding this crisis? Do you agree with his assertion? Explain your answer.
4. For HUNGARY:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What two steps is the Hungarian government taking to end the flow of migrants streaming across its borders?
c) Ask a parent, what do you think of these actions by the Hungarian government?
Obscure German Tweet Helped Spur Migrant March From Hungary
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 1:30 p.m., a government agency in the southern German city of Nuremberg posted a sentence on Twitter that would change the lives of tens of thousands of desperate people.
“We are at present largely no longer enforcing Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens,” said the note, posted on the account of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
The bureaucratic tweet was the first confirmation of an online rumor that had begun to spread a day earlier: With more Syrian refugees arriving via Hungary and other European Union member states, Germany was using its prerogative to stop enforcing the bloc’s asylum rules that require all migrants to be processed in the first EU country they enter.
In other words, Germany had opened its doors.
Within hours, the news contained in the obscure German-language message spread, amplified by news media and word-of-mouth.
Tributes to German Chancellor Angela Merkel poured in from Arabic social media: Photoshopped portraits of her emblazoned with such words as “the loving mother” and “Mama Merkel” began appearing on social networks frequented by Syrians. One lyrical Facebook user called her “pure-hearted” and “a lion.” Arabic references to “Merkel” on Twitter spiked from fewer than 500 a day on Aug. 22 to 2,000 by Sept. 3, according to Topsy, a social-media analytics firm.
Nowhere did the unintended invitation resonate more strongly than on the plaza of Budapest’s Keleti train station, where thousands of migrants had been camping for weeks, hoping to catch a train to Western Europe, as Hungary mostly refused to let them through. “Germany! Germany!” they chanted last week, in what was to become a favorite rallying cry.
A turning point in the migrant crisis that had been slowly engulfing Europe for nearly two years came last weekend when more than 20,000 men, women and children rushed over the German border, triggering new challenges in the EU’s efforts to deal with the flow.
Behind this surge were a series of decisions—some, like the fateful tweet, bordering on gaffes, others meant to contain the crisis—that snowballed into a nearly unstoppable rush. On Sept. 4, as Hungary and other EU countries pondered how to deal with the swelling crowds, the migrants of Keleti took matters into their hands: They stood up and walked, forcing their way into Europe in a collective act halfway between political protest and mass exodus. … (The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10)
The Schengen Agreement:
The migrant crisis is putting pressure on the Schengen Agreement, which abolished the EU’s internal borders, enabling passport-free movement across most of the bloc.
Germany has brought back border controls, and several other countries are taking similar measures, all allowed under the accord but only temporarily and in exceptional circumstances
Only six of the 28 EU member states are outside the Schengen zone – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK.
Non-EU nationals who have a Schengen visa generally do not have ID checks once they are traveling inside the zone.
Schengen is a town in Luxembourg where the agreement was signed in 1985.
Why is the migrant crisis undermining Schengen?
Germany has re-imposed controls on its border with Austria, after a record number of migrants travelled to southern Germany from Hungary, via Austria.
The influx of migrants – most of them fleeing Syria and other conflict zones – also pushed Austria to restrict road and rail traffic on its border with Hungary.
Slovakia is boosting controls on its borders with Austria and Hungary. The Dutch are introducing spot checks and Poland is also considering action.
The migrants entered the EU illegally, without Schengen visas. Hungary became a hotspot as a central gateway to the Schengen zone.
In June there was tension over Schengen when France prevented migrants – mostly Africans – entering from Italy, leaving them stranded at Ventimiglia train station.
In his State of the Union speech on 9 September the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, called free movement under Schengen “a unique symbol of European integration”.
The current crisis, he said, demanded “better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping” with the influx.
Schengen has drawn intense criticism from nationalists and Eurosceptics EU-wide, (those who do not want their country to be part of the European Union, but would prefer their govenrnment to be autonomous). (from BBC News)
On the Schengen agreement (open borders between 26 of the 28 EU countries):
Watch a BBC report from Austria:
Watch an NBC news report from Hungary: