Ministers demand Athens stem flow of illegal immigrants | News | DW | 08.03.2012
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Ministers demand Athens stem flow of illegal immigrants

Seven countries that receive the bulk of EU asylum applications have called on Athens to do more to stop illegal immigrants from entering through Greece, with some threatening to reintroduce border controls.

Germanyand Austria said Thursday that they could reintroduce border controls if Athens fails to take stronger action to keep illegal immigrants from entering the European Union through Greece.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told reporters in Brussels that this was one option that was being considered.

"The question is still open on what happens when a country is not in a position to sufficiently safeguard its borders, as we are currently experiencing with Greece," Friedrich said following a meeting with his counterparts from six other EU countries.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner described Greece's border as being "open like a barn door."

"It cannot be that a member state which does not do its homework gets away scot free," she said.

Sharp rise in asylum applications

Their comments came ahead of a meeting of the interior ministers of all 27 of the EU's states who were to discuss the issue later in the day. The seven who took part in the earlier talks all come from countries that are preferred destinations for illegal immigrants once they've entered the EU's border-free Schengen zone.

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Germany and Austria put pressure on Greece

Over the past few years, Germany in particular has experienced a sharp increased in the number of asylum applications filed. The figure jumped to almost 49,000 in 2011, compared with just 28,000 in 2009.

Luxembourg's immigration minister, Nicolas Schmit, said Greece could not be expected to get to grips with the problem on its own.

"The Greeks are in a deep crisis and we must help the Greeks, and not just economically, financially," he said. "We have to solve this problem together."

The issue of reintroducing border controls within the Schengen area has been a bone of contention in the past. France set off a spat with Italy last year after it reintroduced border controls to stem the flow of migrants during the Arab spring uprisings.

pfd/acb (dpa, AFP)

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