(REUTERS) Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after Europe’s most powerful nation acknowledged it could scarcely cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day.
Berlin announced that the temporary measure would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant arrivals have soared since Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively opened German borders to refugees a week ago.
“The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, adding that this was also necessary for security reasons.
Berlin took the step – which is allowed under Europe’s Schengen treaty as long as it remains temporary – a day before EU interior ministers hold an emergency meeting to discuss spreading asylum seekers around the 28-nation bloc.
A European Commission proposal that each country should accept refugees under a system of compulsory quotas is meeting strong resistance from some countries, especially in central Europe. Slovakia said on Sunday it would try to block the plan.
Germany, Europe’s largest and richest economy, has become a magnet for many people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Police said around 13,000 migrants arrived in the southern city of Munich alone on Saturday, and another 3,000 on Sunday morning.
Now Germany has joined the list of smaller and poorer countries such as Greece and Hungary that are struggling to manage the huge flow of desperate people.
“This step became necessary. The great willingness to help that Germany has shown in recent weeks – by full-time employees and especially by the many thousands of volunteers – must not be overstrained,” de Maiziere said.
The European Commission said Germany appeared legally justified in reimposing border controls, which have been removed in recent decades across much of the continent, and urged action at Monday’s meeting in Brussels.
“The German decision of today underlines the urgency to agree on the measures proposed by the European Commission in order to manage the refugee crisis,” it said in a statement.
Germany has halted train traffic from Austria, a spokeswoman for Austrian rail company OeBB said on Sunday. She said the head of the German rail company told his Austrian counterpart of the decision.
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