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Germany and Poland tighten migrant route border checks

May 30, 2023

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is meeting her Polish counterpart to talk about border controls. German states have urged Berlin to tighten checks amid high irregular entries via Poland and the Czech Republic.

Border and police officials at the Polish-German border, on a highway
Faeser said she hoped a tightening of checks at the border, and on either side, would have an impactImage: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture alliance

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced a widening of checks at and near the border after talks with Polish counterpart Mariusz Kaminski on Tuesday — but stopped short of announcing stationary frontier controls.

Berlin is resisting the notion of reinstating fixed checkpoints in the fight against people smuggling from Belarus, as has been requested by two states on the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic.

What did the minister say?

Faeser said she wanted to see strengthened migration controls on the German-Polish border during a visit to the Polish border town in Swiecko. The tightening of checks would involve more controls on trains as well as on air traffic.

"I am certain that now, by strengthening border controls, this will lead to us now being able to cope jointly with the new new migration pressure together," Faeser said.

The minister said the increased migration pressure through Poland from Belarus would be tackled by both countries "with the measures here at the border, but by both sides on either side of the border."

What are the talks about?

Most of Germany's borders, including those with both countries, are currently only controlled with random spot checks and other measures.

Only Germany's border with Austria currently applies fixed border controls to everyone passing through. This has been the case since 2015 when tens of thousands of people headed to Western Europe via the Balkan route.

Interior ministers of the eastern German states of Brandenburg and Saxony are pressing for Faeser to implement a similar system on their eastern and southern borders, which have also been crossing points for migrants entering Germany.

According to official data, unauthorized entries through Poland have increased significantly with 4,013 cases from January to March, ahead of Austria with 3,674 cases.

Poland erects new border fence with Belarus

At the German-Czech border in Saxony, such entries have been declining sharply since they reached a peak in September 2022.

Federal and state governments at a national summit on refugees in Berlin on May 10 agreed to introduce fixed border controls with EU neighbors only if absolutely necessary.

Opposition urges action to counter Belarus

The deputy chairwoman of the opposition conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Andrea Lindholz, urged some toughening up at Germany's borders.

The Polish border guard has noticed a growing number of attempted irregular border crossings at the frontier with Belarus in recent weeks, thought to be part of an effort by Minsk to retaliate against Western sanctions imposed on it.

Lindholz said Faeser and Poland must agree on a concrete roadmap to significantly reduce illegal entries to Germany.

"In an autocratic state like Belarus border crossings on this scale are no coincidence. It stands to reason that these illegal entries are part of a strategy to destabilize the EU."

Germany's Trade Union of the Police (GdP) has assessed the possible introduction of stationary border controls with the two countries with skepticism because most migrants would claim asylum.

"Stationary border controls do not help at all when it comes to asylum applications," said GdP chairman Andreas Rosskopf, pointing out the applicants would need to be processed and could only be turned back if they were unsuccessful.

rc/kb (dpa)