BERLIN (Reuters) - The interior minister of the southern German state of Bavaria said on Monday that temporary border controls could remain in place “for weeks at least” as the country grapples with an unprecedented influx of refugees.
Europe’s largest and richest economy has been a magnet for many people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa, with most crossing the border from Austria into Bavaria.
With thousands of refugees arriving each day, Germany said it was reaching its limits and decided to temporarily introduce border controls late on Sunday afternoon, in a bid to stem the flood of arrivals.
“We need to have a stricter control here in general, because we have established in the past few days that there are many en route here that are not really refugees,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told radio station Bayern 2.
“It’s got about in the last few days that you are successful if everyone claims to be Syrian,” he added.
A spokesman for German police on the border with Austria said they had arrested around 30 smugglers and about 90 migrants since the controls had been introduced.
Meanwhile, train lines between Austria and Germany reopened on Monday morning apart from one line to Munich, which was still closed because of people on the track, a spokeswoman for Austrian rail company OeBB said.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told German radio that he understood Germany’s decision, but said it was important that it remained a temporary measure.
“We need to all mind out that this doesn’t result in a domino effect and that Schengen really collapses,” he said, referring to Europe’s system of open borders.
He called on interior ministers from the EU’s 28 member states who are meeting in Brussels on Monday to reach concrete decisions on how to redistribute about 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.
Not everyone in Germany believed the move to close the borders would improve the situation on the ground.
“These measures will not create more order but only much more chaos and will ensure that the conditions for the people now sitting or standing on the other side of the border will get even worse,” the parliamentary leader of the opposition Greens, Katrin Goering-Eckhardt told rbb radio.
Reporting by Caroline Copley; Additional reporting by Gernot Heller and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Toby Chopra