Germany has 'hit the limit' of the number of migrants it can take

Germany has ‘hit the limit’ of the number of migrants it can take, its president warns – seven years after he called for ‘open borders’ and a million people entered the country

  • Frank-Walter Steinmeier insisted there needs to be ‘stronger controls’ at borders

Germany has ‘hit the limit’ of the number of migrants the country can take, the country’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned. 

Steinmeier said that the fact that a third of all migrants who reached the EU in the first six months of this year went through Germany first means the nation, ‘like Italy, is at the limit of its capabilities’. 

His warning comes seven years after Steinmeier called for ‘open borders’ in a move that saw a million people enter Germany in 2015 and 2016.

Steinmeier, who is on a three-day visit to Italy, has now U-turned and insisted that there needs to be ‘stronger controls’ at the borders and a ‘fair distribution’ of migrants in Europe.

He said Germany is now facing an ’emergency situation’ due to the sheer scale of migrants travelling from Syria and Afghanistan to the country’s eastern border.

Suspected illegal migrants sit on the ground after they were detained by German police during their patrol along the German-Polish border in Forst, Germany, on Wednesday 

Germany has ‘hit the limit’ of the number of migrants the country can take, the country’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned

‘In the first six months of this year, we had 162,000 asylum requests, a third of all those in the EU,’ Steinmeier told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, adding that this is up by more than 75 per cent over the same period last year. 

‘Furthermore, there are currently over a million refugees in our country. This is why Germany, like Italy, is at the limit of its capabilities.’ 

Steinmeier, who is being accompanied by Italian President Sergio Mattarella during his visit, added: ‘We need a fair distribution in Europe and stronger controls and surveillance at our external borders.’

Over 130,000 people have landed on Italian shores since the start of this year, according to the interior ministry, up from some 68,200 in the same period last year.

Some 8,500 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa last week in just three days, as the number of people crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa rose.

Germany is also dealing with ‘heavy immigration’, Steinmeier said, calling for ‘humane and sustainable European solutions’.

‘We have to make every effort to make the loads sustainable and lower the number of arrivals,’ he added. While as German President Steinmeier has no policy-shaping power, his office comes with considerable influence. 

It comes amid growing fears that foreign political conflicts are being brought into Germany.

At the weekend, an Eritrean culture festival in Stuttgart descended into violent chaos over the weekend as opposing mobs attacked each other and police with stones, bottles, and wooden planks.

The clashes broke out between Eritrean government supporters and opponents as some 200 protesters gathered outside the festival in the southwestern German city.

As violence flared, dozens of people were injured, including at least 26 officers. One resident described the scene as ‘like a war’.

A smashed car was also seen winding its way through the clashing groups as police came under attack in Stuttgart over the weekend

The clashes broke out between Eritrean government supporters and opponents as some 200 protesters gathered outside the festival in the southwestern German city

Footage circulating on social media showed the unrest as attackers were seen running in groups and breaking into mass street brawls. A car with a smashed windshield was also seen winding its way through the clashing groups as police came under attack.

The weekend’s event in Stuttgart was reportedly organised by groups close to the totalitarian dictatorship of Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki.

Six of the 26 injured police officers were treated in a hospital for their injuries, police said.

Four event participants and two protesters were also injured, according to police, although information was not immediately available about the severity of their injuries.

‘It was like a war here,’ one resident told Bild after fearing the mass brawls. ‘Men threw stones at the officers from a schoolyard next to us. A police helicopter was on duty. It was so hectic. I thought there would be shooting soon,’ they said.

Saturday’s protests were the latest in a string of unrest surrounding Eritrean cultural events in Germany and elsewhere. In July, a clash at an Eritrean festival in the western German city of Giessen left 22 police officers injured.

It comes as Berlin revealed last week it was stopping accepting migrants living in Italy under a European solidarity plan.

The voluntary scheme is aimed at easing pressure on EU border nations that are often the first port of call for migrants.

Germany said it could resume taking in migrants if Italy resumed its obligations to take back refugees.

Under the EU’s Dublin procedure, irregular migrants should be registered in the EU country they first enter. Should they head to another nation in the bloc, they can be returned to their EU first port of call.

Local governments have become frustrated with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s federal government as they have been left to foot the bill for the rising costs of providing housing, schools and services to a growing number of migrants.

In addition to the more than 1 million Ukrainians who came to Germany last year seeking shelter from Russia’s war on their country, the number of asylum-seekers is also up steeply. Ukrainians receive refugee status in Germany immediately and don’t need to apply for asylum.

In 2022, more than 244,000 people applied for asylum in Germany but this figure has increased by 78 per cent in the first six months of this year alone. Experts estimate up to 300,000 migrants could apply for asylum in Germany this year.

Many of those now arriving in Germany on a daily basis trek across the Balkans and come from war-ridden countries such as Syria or Afghanistan. They rely on smugglers to take them across the borders so they can ask for asylum the moment they arrive on German soil.

Local communities have been putting up asylum-seekers in tents, containers, gyms or former airports for months as regular housing gets scarce. In addition, they say there is also a lack of kindergarten and school spaces for migrant children. They demand billions in additional federal funds to cover their costs.

The national government, however, rejects their demands, saying it spent 28 billion euros (£24 billion) on migration last year alone. About 15 billion euros were provided to states and local authorities, while more than 12 billion euros were invested in combating the causes of flight abroad.

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