Why Is Germany Instituting Border Controls Now, After Being So Open To Refugees?

Refugees get out of a special train coming from Munich upon arrival at the railway station in Berlin Schoenefeld on September 13, 2015. Around 700 migrants were sent from Munich as the Bavarian city is at the limit of its capacity to welcome refugees arriving en masse in Germany, police warned Sunday, a day after 13,000 asylum-seekers reached the city. AFP PHOTO / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

After more than 13,000 migrants arrived in Munich, Germany, on Saturday alone, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said Germany would temporarily impose border controls to limit the inflows of refugees into the country, according to BBC News. Germany has taken in 450,000 refugees this year, according to the Guardian. Why is Germany instituting border controls after being so open for so long? Simply put, de Maizière said the country is overwhelmed.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Germany is "at the limits of its capabilities" after so many refugees came in Saturday, according to BBC News. The country has repeatedly called for other countries to step up and take more refugees as the crisis grows worse, but the calls have fallen on ears that agree to take some, but not enough, like in the U.K., or ears that oppose accepting the refugees as fleeing from war or persecution, thus refusing to help them at all, like in Hungary. Germany could technically accommodate the number of refugees that are entering if the amount was offset over time by help from other countries. But because so many countries have refused to step up to the plate in the same way Germany has, de Maizière said the border controls have become a necessary step and are certainly a calculated step that should serve as a message to Europe, according to The Washington Post:

The German readiness to help must not be overstretched. The measure therefore is also a signal to Europe. ... Germany is facing its humanitarian responsibility, but the burden that comes with the high number of refugees must be distributed fairly within Europe.

De Maizière said efforts will first focus on suspending train travel through the Austrian border for the next 12 hours, according to BBC News. Technically, the move goes against the principle of the Schengen zone, which allows people to move freely between many European countries. But the agreement does allow for temporary suspensions. BBC News said the move could definitely give Germany some power when de Maizière travels to Brussels in the next few days to meet other interior ministers to discuss the migrant crisis.

A joint proposal created by Germany and France hoped to reach an agreement among the European Union that would've enforced a quota system to ensure that each country rehomed its share of refugees during the crisis, according to The Guardian. Unfortunately, a few EU states — Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania — refuse to support the measure. Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán said that refugees are often coming from camps in Syria's neighboring states, so they weren't actually in danger. Orbán doesn't say whether those "camps" were meant to permanently rehome refugees, but he did say they have no reason "to be scared for their lives," according to The Guardian.

Under the U.N., the European Union is obligated to take in refugees who are fleeing war or persecution. Germany is expecting 800,000 asylum applications from refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea, among other countries, in hopes of escaping conflict, corrupt governments, and poverty, according to the Post.

Though Germany has easily opened its borders to refugees seeking help, the unwillingness of its neighbors has forced it into a tough situation. De Maizière said it cannot be the choice of refugees to go to a specific country, but, then again, the refugees don't seem to be traveling less out of choice and more from a questions of "Who will actually accept me and help me establish a life?" Right now, with Germany's liberal refugee policy and generous welfare system, the answer seems clear.

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