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Germany's Schäuble likens migrant wave to 'avalanche'

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has compared the refugee crisis to an avalanche that could engulf Europe. He appealed for greater solidarity in the issue, although there a few signs of that emerging.

The German finance minister warned that EU member states could still see the immigration crisis worsen, adopting an alpine metaphor to get his point across.

"Avalanches can be triggered if any careless skier hits the slopes and moves a little snow," said Schäuble.

"Whether we are already in the situation where the avalanche has already reached the valley below, or if we are in the situation where it is on the upper slopes, I don't know," he told the Centre for European Policy in Berlin on Wednesday.

The migration issue, Schäuble said, was a "rendezvous of our society with globalization." The pressure of migration, he said, was something that could only be solved at a European level "or it could go quite badly for all of us."

Valetta Malta Treffen Migration 2015 Europa Afrika

Amid a show of unity with African counterparts in Malta, EU leaders differ widely in their views

Schäuble added that he believed the problem could not be solved by Germany alone, or by internal borders within the EU. "Nation states can no longer resolve these big issues," he said.

Few signs of consensus

Schäuble's appeal comes as further splits emerge among member states on how to deal with the issue. Germany has warned that it could send refugees from Syria back to other EU states, with Hungary on Wednesday insisting it would take none. Meanwhile Slovenia has begun to emulate Hungary by erecting border fences while Denmark has said it is tightening immigration rules.

In Sweden, the government imposed temporary border controls from Thursday, a turnaround on its open-door policy so far.

EU leaders have been meeting in Malta to discuss the migration crisis, seeking an aid-for-cooperation deal with their African counterparts to help limit migration across the Mediterranean. On Thursday, EU leaders were meeting separately to seek progress on how to stem the flow of refugees arriving via Turkey.

Within Germany, state justice ministers and German Justice Minister Heiko Maas were meeting on Thursday to discuss a proposal to abolish the offense of unlawful entry and illegal residence. Presently, prosecuting authorities are processing a backlog of investigations that some have deemed impractical.

rc/jil (dpa, Reuters)

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