Berlin (dpa) – Germany expects to take in 1 million refugees this
year, the vice chancellor said Monday, as thousands of migrants
rushed to reach EU-member state Hungary before a new law there
effectively closes its borders.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Germany could realistically
expect 1 million asylum seekers in 2015, an increase from the 800,000
earlier forecast by the country’s Interior Ministry.
In a letter seen by dpa and addressed to his Social Democratic party
members, Gabriel also defended the government’s decision to introduce
temporary border controls with Austria on Sunday, while
simultaneously reassuring asylum seekers already in Germany.
“Anyone applying for asylum on German soil will be allowed to stay
until his application has been processed. We will not deviate from
that,” Gabriel wrote.
Thousands of migrants from the Middle East streamed by train through
Macedonia over the weekend, many of them hoping to cross into Serbia
and then Hungary before a new law goes into effect there on Tuesday
that penalizes illegal border crossings.
More than 6,000 migrants, mostly Syrian refugees, took the train ride
across Macedonia on Sunday and Monday morning, the authorities and
international aid organizations said in Skopje.
Hungary registered more than 10,000 migrants after they crossed from
Serbia over the weekend, police data showed Monday.
On Sunday 5,809 people, mostly Syrian refugees, were registered. It
was a new single-day high, breaking the day-old record of 4,330.
The new Hungarian legislation will raise border trespassing from a
minor offense to a criminal act punishable with up to three years in
Cutting the fence that is now in place along Hungary’s 175-kilometre
border with Serbia will carry up to five years behind bars.
Conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s cabinet will also consider
the declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday, a move that would
pave the way for parliament to allow army patrols to reinforce police
in the border zone.
Meanwhile, more than 5,000 refugees crossed the border from Hungary
to Austria overnight, with thousands more expected over the course of
Monday, Austrian authorities in the border town of Nickelsdorf said.
Germany’s re-introduction of border controls on Sunday evening by
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere along the Austrian border led to
several kilometres of traffic backups on the A3 and A8 motorways
across the border.
A total of 19,100 refugees arrived by rail in the southern German
city of Munich at the weekend, with some 7,100 people on Sunday,
after more than 12,000 arrived on Saturday.
Train services between Germany and Austria resumed early Monday,
after the connection was temporarily halted on Sunday.
A Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) spokesman in Berlin said trains started
running from 7 am (0500 GMT), with the exception of the stretch
between Salzburg in Austria and Munich, where pedestrians were
walking down the track.
Austrian Federal Railways said its service to Germany had restarted
but cautioned passengers to expect document checks by German
De Maiziere said Sunday that emergency border measures were being
implemented “for security reasons.”
“The goal is to limit the current influx of refugees to Germany and
have them arrive in an orderly fashion,” he said.
Budapest police said the number of refugees crossing the border into
Hungary, mostly hailing from Serbia, was soaring to new highs ahead
of stiffer penalties for illegal entry into Hungary, set to go into
The number soared on Sunday to 5,809, three times the daily average
in recent weeks. Over the three days Friday to Sunday, 13,162 people
From Tuesday, illegal entry will be treated as a criminal offence
with penalties of up to three years in prison. It is currenly treated
as an administrative offence.