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04/12/2016

German transit zones unpopular

Justice & Home Affairs

German transit zones unpopular

Many Roma migrants hail from newly designated 'safe countries' of origin. Berlin, August 2015.

[Joel Schalit/Flickr]

Plans to set up transit zones directly on the German border have been widely criticised by German politicians. EurActiv Germany reports.

Disagreement is growing over the plan to introduce transit zones for asylum seekers on the German border. Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière has been criticised for breaking agreements.

Burkhard Lischka, the Social Democratic Party’s domestic policy spokesperson in the Bundestag, spoke against the measure on Wednesday (30 September). “What may work in a fenced-off airport building cannot be transferred to 3,757 km of German border,” he said.

>>Read: Slovakia pushes ahead with legal action over EU refugee quotas

De Maizière told the Bundestag that asylum procedures on the borders must be discussed. The plans are in line with European Union Law, so long as adequate living conditions are ensured. The German government’s opinion-forming process is not yet complete.

The proposed measures would be modelled after existing procedures that are currently used in many airports. Here, people who have false documents or none at all, or come from a country that is on the safe list, are processed within 48 hours.

Lischka suggested that refugees would find new ways to cross the borders, and that more unregistered people would find their way into the country. The plan would only work if a physical border were to be erected. The SPD would never sanction such a proposal, he stated. The CSU also came in for criticism over their proposal of new measures after the asylum package had been negotiated. “The constant clucking from the CSU is really starting to grate,” added Lischka.

Christine Lambrecht, the SPD’s parliamentary group leader, also called the practicality of the plan into question.

>>Read: Surprising Greens stance on the refugee crisis

More and more regions and municipalities are struggling with the influx of refugees. According to de Maizière, around 10,000 refugees a day are arriving on Germany’s doorstep. September was a record month for arrivals. Bavaria in particular is facing difficulties.

Minister-President Horst Seehofer (CSU) has said that 170,000 refugees entered Bavaria in the month of September. Due to its location on the route from the Balkans, the region is bearing the brunt of the influx into Germany.

Agreements broken?

The Greens have accused de Maizière and Seehofer of not sticking to the framework of agreements agreed upon between the regions and the government on refugee policy.

The Greens’ co-chairman, Simone Peter, criticised the transit zone proposal: “With this absurd idea, Seehofer and de Maizière have ignored the decisions agreed upon between the government and the regions,” Peter said in Berlin on Wednesday (30 September).

The Greens chief expressed her disagreement with the content of the proposal as well. “Processing asylum seekers through a fast-track procedure on the border is contrary to the elementary principles of human rights and the rule of law,” said Peter.

>>Read: Calais: Europe’s dead end

On Tuesday (29 September), the Federal Cabinet finally agreed upon a comprehensive package of asylum and refugee policy measures, which also significantly tightns the asylum law. The Greens, despite not agreeing on some individual points, have supported the package.