German minister proposes asylum checks at land borders

30th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Germany could in future check asylum claims as migrants arrive at its land borders, the way it already does at airports, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere proposed Wednesday.

He stressed that the cabinet had not yet signed off on the idea, but said his ministry was drafting legislation that would be in line with EU rules.

"We already know this from airport procedures. You can hold someone at an airport, check whether his asylum request is obviously unfounded and send him back," the minister said on Berlin public radio RBB.

De Maiziere said he was thinking of a similar procedure at land crossings, which would bring Germany in line with EU directives, adding that "this will now surely be debated".

He did not provide details of the plan -- notably regarding the infrastructure that would be needed to carry out land border controls.

Criticism quickly rained down from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), coalition partners of the minister's conservatives, and from the opposition Greens party.

"Half-baked proposals don't help and only create uncertainty," SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner told Berlin's Tagesspiegel daily, adding that his party would reject restrictions to the fundamental right to asylum.

The Greens' leader Simone Peter said that "fast-tracking the processing of asylum-seekers at the border contradicts basic principles of humanity and the rule of law".

"The result would be large camps in a no-man's land, where neither adequate care for the refugees nor a decent asylum procedure would be practicable," she said.

Germany, the EU's top destination for people fleeing war and misery, in mid-September temporarily reintroduced such checkpoints on land crossings, especially with Austria, to stem and control the huge influx.

A record 270,000 to 280,000 refugees arrived in Germany in September, more than the total for 2014, said the interior minister of the southern state of Bavaria.

Germany expects to take in up to one million migrants altogether this year.

The conservative CSU party ruling Bavaria, the main gateway, has urged the establishment of "transit zones" where asylum-seekers could be quickly registered or rejected.

The German government said Tuesday it would add Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro to a list of so-called safe origin countries, which will result in swifter deportations for asylum-seekers from those states.

© 2015 AFP

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