Germany starts Austria border checks to limit migrants

Geir Moulson
Shawn Pogatchnik

Berlin — Germany introduced temporary border controls Sunday to stem the tide of thousands of refugees streaming across its frontier, sending a clear message to its European partners that it needs more help with an influx that is straining its ability to cope.

Germany is a preferred destination for many people fleeing Syria’s civil war and other troubled nations in the migration crisis that has bitterly divided Europe. They have braved dangerous sea crossings in flimsy boats — another 34 drowned Sunday off Greece — and made long treks across unwelcoming countries in hopes of a better life.

More than a week ago, Germany and Austria agreed to let in migrants who had massed in Hungary, saying it was a one-time measure to ease an emergency. The flow has continued undiminished, and while Germans have remained welcoming, officials said the numbers were straining the country’s ability to provide accommodations.

Berlin has become increasingly frustrated with the reluctance of many other countries in the 28-nation European Union — especially those in the former Eastern bloc — to share the burden of hosting the newcomers.

Sunday’s action, focusing on the Austrian border, came a day before a meeting of EU interior ministers to discuss the crisis.

“The aim of this measure is to limit the current influx to Germany and to return to orderly entry procedures,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters. “This is also urgently necessary for security reasons.”

De Maiziere added: “The great readiness to help that Germany has shown in recent weeks … must not be overstretched.”