Germany, Sweden Urge Measures to Slow Immigration

The two Northern European countries are overwhelmed by the number of people seeking asylum.

German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6
German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6 (European Commission)

Germany and Sweden called for measures to reduce immigration from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe on Wednesday days after the two reimposed border controls.

Morgan Johansson, the Swedish migration minister, urged other European Union countries to help “slow the highway that has now been introduced right through Europe via Greece, the Balkans, Austria, Germany and then up to the northern countries.”

Johansson said some 115,000 people have applied for asylum in his country in the last four months alone.

Last year, Sweden registered 160,000 asylum seekers, the highest per-capita ratio in the EU.

Speaking alongside Johansson in Brussels, Ole Schröder, a lawmaker for Germany’s ruling conservative party, said, “Our problem at the moment in Europe is that we do not have the functional border control system, especially at the Greek-Turkey border.”

Germany has seen the second-highest immigration rate in Europe relative to its population with up to a million people seeking asylum there last year.

Border controls

Germany imposed border controls in September. Sweden followed suit this week by reintroducing identity checks at the border with Denmark.

Denmark, in turn, introduced similar controls at its border with Germany.

Other countries that have stopped people at their borders are Austria, Hungary and Slovenia.

Hungary, led by the right-wing prime minister Viktor Orbán, sealed off its border with fellow EU member state Croatia last year as well as non-EU Serbia.

The conservative Law and Justice party that won the election in Poland last year has also called for stricter measures to control the flow of people.

Germans grow wary

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire from her own right-wing supporters for insisting on an open-door policy.

Wolfgang Schäuble, her hawkish finance minister, has said, “We need to send a clear message to the world: We are very much prepared to help, we’ve shown that we are, but our possibilities are also limited.”

Merkel has since agreed to the creation of “transit zones” on Germany’s borders to check those coming in. Family reunifications have been frozen.

Schengen at risk

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, whose country assumed the EU’s rotating presidency this month, has warned the bloc could go the way of the Roman Empire if it doesn’t take measure. “Big empires go down if the borders are not well-protected,” he has said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has similarly warned that the Schengen free-travel area is at risk.

Many blame Greece which all through 2015 refused to accept help from Frontex, the European border agency, and failed to properly register refugees.

The Balkan nation finally asked for help in December after some countries had warned that it could be ejected from Schengen if it kept barring foreign staff from patrolling the external frontier.

700,000 migrants are believed to have entered the EU through Greece last year.