Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Italy imposes Austria border controls 'for next few days'

  • Italian police are imposing border control checks in Brenner, near the Austrian border (Photo: Jurjen van Enter)

Italian regional authorities announced on Wednesday (2 September) that they are imposing border control checks near Austria.

A statement issued by Bolzano, a German-speaking Alto Adige region in northern Italy, said the police checks are a “temporary measure” to help cope with the number of refugees heading towards Germany.

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"Bavaria is witnessing record arrivals of refugees, mainly via the Balkan route, which is creating an unmanageable situation”, the statement said.

Emilia Muller, Bavaria's social affairs minister, issued the request for the border controls.

A Bolzano spokesperson told this website that Italian police have, since midday, started checking IDs on trains that cross the border. She added that the controls would probably continue "for the next few days."

"Police will try to convince people to stay in Brennero [Italian border town], we will take of them, and after a few days they can travel on because they don't want to stay in Italy."

She said Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi supports the police checks.

"It is an agreement between our autonomous province and the prime minister in Rome", she said.

The European Commission, for its part, said it had not yet received formal confirmation from Italian authorities regarding the controls but noted that EU states can reintroduce controls in “unforeseeable events”.

The latest border measures follow similar moves by Austria earlier this week after police discovered 71 bodies, said to be Syrian refugees, in the back of a lorry.

Police in Budapest are, since Tuesday, also blocking some 2,000 people at Keleti Railway Terminus from boarding trains to Austria and Germany, prompting protests.

The European Commission has condoned the Austrian border checks, but is understood to be wary of giving the green light to any larger moves to reintroduce internal borders throughout the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone of 26 member states.

But at the same time, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned “the Schengen question will be on the agenda for many [Schengen member states]” if more is not done to distribute asylum seekers.

Just over 100,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in August alone, according to a Bavarian official, cited by Reuters.

The issue is dominating news headlines as the influx of migrants is expected to continue over the coming months.

The UNHCR estimated in August that another 3,000 refugees are likely to cross daily from Greece into the Western Balkans and then Hungary for the foreseeable future.

EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Budapest next week after first visiting Athens and the Greek island of Kos on Thursday and Friday.

He will be joined by commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex, the police agency Europol, and the asylum support office EASO.

Hungary has requested around €8 million in emergency funds from the commission to help create reception facilities and the commission says it is waiting for Greece to make a similar request for emergency aid.

The commission is unable to provide Greece with money on asylum because the Greek government has yet to set up a responsible budgetary authority for EU funds.

“We have allocated the money for Greece, we just haven’t been physically able to transfer the first disbursement”, an EU official said.

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