German Authorities to Tighten Controls on Eastern Borders Amid Migration Surge

By Elliot Chen September 27, 2023

Germany increases border patrol efforts with Poland and Czech Republic due to surging asylum applications and concerns over human trafficking.

In response to increased human trafficking and an influx of asylum seekers, German authorities announced on Wednesday a greater emphasis on border patrol and control. The authorities are targeting borders shared with Poland and Czech Republic, seeking to restrict illicit activities.

Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, unveiled the plan, stating police will increase "flexible checks and mobile controls along the smuggling routes." The plan, supported by Polish and Czech authorities, takes immediate effect. Faeser highlighted the necessity of ending the exploitative nature of human trafficking, "We must absolutely stop the smugglers’ cruel business because they put human lives at risk with maximum profit."

The measure of enforcing fixed border controls with Poland and the Czech Republic is a temporary one and is a deviation from the Schengen Area's normal rules. So far, the state of Bavaria on the Austrian border has been the only German location enforcing stationary border controls, a holdover from the 2015-2016 migration crisis, an event which saw more than a million refugees settling in Germany.

Migration has swiftly become a pressing issue in Germany, particularly with impending regional elections in Bavaria and central state Hesse, putting pressure on the centre-left coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Earlier in the month, Germany suspended its intake of migrants from Italy indefinitely, citing its already major contribution to the European voluntary solidarity plan. This was a decision made amidst Italy's refusal to accept rejected asylum seekers as per its obligations.

Faeser, herself a candidate for Scholz’s Social Democratic Party in Hesse, in her comments suggested that other European countries on the continental perimeter, like Italy, ought to take more responsibility in protecting borders and adhering to procedures set by the European Union. "We are fighting to keep internal border controls open within the European Union. But we need this European solution," she explained.

The German Office for Migration and Refugees has recorded over 204,000 asylum applications between August and January 2023, an increase of 77 percent from the previous year, while around a million refugees have found sanctuary in the country, following conflict in Ukraine.

Simultaneously, illegal entries into Germany have seen an almost 60 percent increase since last year, with the German Federal Police counting 70,753 such cases during this period, straining local authorities and municipalities. "Municipalities must not be left to bear the costs, which would be fatal,” warned Alexander Handschuh, spokesperson for the German Association of Towns and Municipalities.

Handschuh also highlighted the high demand for housing being exerted on local communities by incoming refugees, stating, "These irregular refugees are occupying places that are urgently needed for people with the right to stay."

As increasing numbers of migrants are requiring accommodation, many often find themselves consigned to gymnasiums which, in turn, affects the capacity and use of such facilities by local communities. The situation thus has raised significant questions about Europe's handling of the migration crisis, concerns echoed by Der Spiegel in this week's cover enquiring, "Will we make it again?" a callback to previous Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 assurance, “We’ll make it” in reference to the migration crisis.