Germany Seals Itself Off

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin has closed its southern borders to refugees, preventing other victims of civil wars from entering, and has begun deportations of rejected asylum applicants back to Southeast Europe. Inconsistencies among government officials over how to approach the refugee problem have ultimately led to an unexpected influx of tens of thousands of refugees. Thousands in the German population have made a unique display of helpfulness toward refugees, helpfulness, the government will now render futile. At today's EU Interior and Justice Ministers Meeting, measures will be promoted to once again seal the EU borders and establish camps to hold refugees immediately upon their arrivals in Greece, Italy, and possibly Hungary. One such camp has been opened in Germany to separate Southeast European refugees for their rapid deportation. Last week, one hundred eleven refugees were deported by plane to Kosovo. Half of the 250,000 refugees, who entered Germany this year, between January and August, are threatened with immediate deportation. At the same time, demands are being raised to drastically reduce state support for refugees and to abolish the fundamental individual right of asylum.

Close the Borders

Berlin has temporarily suspended the Schengen Agreement and established border controls in southern Germany. Entry will only be granted with valid travel documents. Refugees can therefore no longer come into Germany. The administration ordered the Deutsche Bahn AG to halt train traffic from Austria to Germany. The German railway company transmitted the request to Austria's national railway company OeBB, which followed suit. "The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany," declared German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.[1] Following Berlin's suspension of the Schengen Agreement, the Czech Republic reinforced its border controls, and Hungary is planning to permanently close its "border fence" to Serbia by tomorrow. Anyone entering illegally, or damaging border installations, risks a sentence of up to three, or up to five years in prison, respectively. According to the German Federal Police, the German borders will probably remain closed over a protracted period.

Futile

Germany's de facto closing of its southern border will render futile the help provided by thousands in the German population to the masses of arriving refugees. This year, the number of refugees had increased due to wars and humanitarian crises - caused also, to a significant degree, by Germany (german-foreign-policy.com reported [2]) - increasing pressure on South and Southeast Europe. This has ultimately led to inconsistencies in German government policy and mistakes in efforts to ward off refugees. Consequently, tens of thousands of refugees were seeking refuge in Germany. (german-foreign-policy.com reported [3]). Thousands in Germany welcomed these refugees at the railway stations, demonstrating their solidarity and providing practical support to an extent unprecedented in Germany. The de facto closing of German borders to refugees will render futile these efforts to help.

"Not Responsible"

With the closure of its borders, Berlin is explicitly demonstrating that it seeks to bring the "Dublin System" back into effect, which stipulates that all refugees, seeking asylum, must make their applications in the first EU country they reach. For all those arriving by land or by sea, this will mean applying mainly in Greece, Italy or Hungary. Over the past few days, the German government has left no doubts that it abides by the "Dublin System." Yesterday, German Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, explicitly reaffirmed that, "according to current European law, Germany is not responsible for the largest portion of those seeking protection." The "Dublin System" remains in force, unaltered, "and I call on all European member states to abide by its rules."[4] To put this through, the establishment of so-called reception centers ("Hotspot Approach") must be promoted at today's EU Interior and Justice Minister meeting. This refers to reception camps directly at the EU's external borders - in Greece, Italy, possibly in Hungary and in Turkey - in which arriving refugees can be immediately assembled and following a rapid inspection of their asylum applications, can either be distributed throughout the EU or immediately deported. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5])

European Minimum Standards

To ward off unregulated flight into the EU, alongside the planned "registration centers," Germany quietly acquiesces to even brutal measures, such as Hungary's border closures. Contrary to statements by top German politicians, who, last week, engaging in an effective PR effort, were critical of Hungary's erection of a "border fence," last Friday, Manfred Weber (of Bavaria's CSU Party), who chairs the European People's Party (EPP) caucus in the European Parliament, reflected in Budapest, the German government's true standpoint. The outer borders of the EU must be secured, declared Weber. "The fence is there, for the time being, to channel the flow, to be able to supervise, who crosses the border. I fully support this idea." That "borders must be secured and guarded" is also an "EPP standpoint." Highly fortified "border fences" have been in existence for years elsewhere along the EU's outer borders - along the borders separating Greece and Bulgaria from Turkey. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Following his visit to Budapest, Weber went to the Hungarian "reception center" in Bicske, which had been sharply criticized recently by human rights activists. "I have the impression that Hungary's facilities meet European minimum standards," declared the head of the EPP caucus.[7]

Mass Deportations

Soon other measures are expected to be applied. For example, all countries of Southeast Europe will be proclaimed "safe third countries," to where refugees can be immediately deported back to. Last week, Green Party politicians tentatively prepared their approval of these measures. To be able to deport more quickly, the German state of Bavaria has become the first to open a refugee camp, where exclusively Southeast European refugees will be held, of whom 99 percent will be refused asylum. For the time being, three such camps - with a capacity for around 1,500 - have been planned in the region of Ingolstadt. Deportation to Southeast Europe has long since begun. Last Friday, 111 refugees from Kosovo were taken from the camp at 6 AM, and deported with a chartered plane to Priština. Nearly half of the refugees, who came to Germany this year, are awaiting the same treatment. According to statistics of the German Ministry of the Interior, of the 256.938 people who have applied in Germany for refugee status between January and August, 38,245 are from Albania, 33,824 from Kosovo, 20,864 from other parts of Serbia, 10,244 from Macedonia and 5,420 from Bosnia Herzegovina, 108,597. They are all facing deportation.

Reduce Standards

Demands are also being raised for a scaling back of the fundamental right for asylum. Germany has been "allowing itself the most liberal right of asylum in Europe, with the highest accommodation standards," claimed Markus Söder (CSU), Bavaria's Minister of Finances, last Thursday. Given the current refugee crisis, the right to asylum in the EU must be standardized. This means that "German standards ... must be Europeanized, in other words, scaled back." "That begins with the monetary and non-cash hand-outs."[8] On the weekend, the German EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger made a similar declaration, declaring that in Germany there should be "a certain amount of convergence with the services rendered in other EU countries." "We need a certain amount of harmonization of the material services for refugee applicants in Europe." In addition, "the constitution should be amended to permit the asylum process to be shortened."[9]

Right of Asylum: "Meet Europe's Standards?"

Bavaria's Minister of Finances goes a step further in his demands and puts the right of asylum - as a principle - into question. Ultimately "even our constitution" must be put to the test, says Markus Söder. "The crux of the matter is: does the basic individual right to asylum meet Europe's standards?"[10] This takes issue with a basic element of Germany's humanitarian law.

More on this theme: War on Refugees (II), Forced to Flee (I), "A Time to Make Friends" (II), Forced to Flee (II), Forced to Flee (III) and Forced to Flee (IV).

[1] Vorübergehende Grenzkontrollen eingeführt. www.bundesregierung.de 13.09.2015.
[2] See Forced to Flee (I), Forced to Flee (II), Forced to Flee (III) and Forced to Flee (IV).
[3] See Rückschlag für Berlin.
[4] Vorübergehende Grenzkontrollen eingeführt. www.bundesregierung.de 13.09.2015.
[5], [6] See Der "Hotspot Approach" zur Flüchtlingsabwehr.
[7] Weber verteidigt Flüchtlingspolitik der ungarischen Regierung. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.09.2015.
[8] Markus Söder: Das Asylrecht muss eingeschränkt werden. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10.09.2015.
[9] Grundgesetzänderung und geringere Asylleistungen. www.welt.de 13.09.2015.
[10] Markus Söder: Das Asylrecht muss eingeschränkt werden. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10.09.2015.