14 Sep 2015

Austria deploys army as part of tougher border controls

Austria is to deploy the army to help deal with the influx of refugees coming from Hungary, as part of a tougher stance on border control.

Following Germany’s clampdown on immigration control over the weekend, Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said: “If Germany carries out border controls, Austria must put strengthened border controls in place. We are doing that now.”

He said the army would be deployed in a supporting role to guard its southern frontier.

Germany introduced border controls along its border with Austria on Sunday after Berlin temporarily suspended the Schengen agreement, which allows the free movement of people across Europe.

As thousands of refugees enter the country every day, with an estimated 800,000 people expected to arrive by the end of the year, Germany said it is now reaching its capacity.

‘This step became necessary’

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

He added: “This step became necessary. The great willingness to help that Germany has shown in recent weeks – by full-time employees and especially by the many thousands of volunteers – must not be overstrained.”

Train services between Germany and Austria were suspended for 12 hours over the weekend and checks have been introduced on the A3 highway between the two countries.

Slovakia has also joined Austria and Germany in introducing temporary border controls as Europe struggles to cope with the number of refugees.

The country’s interior ministry said it will strengthen its border forces with an additional 220 police officers and it is coordinating with authorities in neighbouring Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Record number of refugees

This comes as a record number of refugees crossed into Hungary over the weekend, ahead of the introduction of tougher border measures.

Some 5,809 refugees entered the country on Sunday, surpassing Saturday’s record of 4,330.

More asylum seekers are expected to reach the country before Tuesday, when those who cross Hungary’s border illegally will be arrested.

EU member states are concerned that Germany’s decision may have a “domino effect” across Europe and could pose a threat to the system of open borders.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said: “We need to all mind out that this doesn’t result in a domino effect and that Schengen really collapses.”

The EU’s 28 member states are being in Brussels today to discuss the redistribution of about 160,000 asylum seekers.