Germany should back Austria on controlling border with Italy against migrants: transport minister

Slideshow ( 2 images )

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should support Austria in stemming an expected increase in migrants trying to get to northern Europe by sending police to help control the Brenner border with Italy, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said on Tuesday.

Dobrindt, a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) which has sharply criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, said the move would send a signal that Germany was not prepared to welcome all migrants with open arms.

“Germany could contribute and support Austrian efforts at the Brenner (Pass) with manpower,” Dobrindt told the Muenchner Merkur paper.

Merkel has been critical of tighter border controls and is instead banking on a EU-Turkey deal that took effect on Monday and gives Ankara political and financial benefits in return for taking back refugees and migrants who have crossed to Greece.

On Saturday, Austria’s defense minister told a German newspaper it plans to deploy soldiers at the Brenner Pass to help with border protection, migrant registrations, the humanitarian effort and deportations.

Border clampdowns imposed by countries along the main migrant route northwards from Greece through the Balkans, including Austria, have helped sharply reduce the number of new arrivals in Germany, which took in over one million last year.

But many politicians believe that the numbers will rise again once migrants try alternative routes, for example by crossing by sea to Italy from Libya in North Africa or from Albania in the Balkans.

Dobrindt said Germany could not rely on its neighbors to manage to protect borders against the flow of migrants.

“We must show that we are also prepared and are in a position to do the same,” he said, adding that Germany needed to send a signal that it did not have an “unconditional culture of welcome.”

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Heinrich