Germany warns at ‘limit of capacity’ as migrant numbers surge
German authorities warned Sunday they were stretched to capacity to welcome refugees arriving en masse, as Europe scrambled to hold emergency talks on the unprecedented crisis.
Some 13,015 refugees arrived in Munich on Saturday alone, and at least 1,400 are expected Sunday to reach the southern German city—the end of their exhausting and often perilous journey through Hungary and Austria.
Germany has become the destination of choice for many refugees, particularly for Syrians after Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to relax asylum rules for citizens of the war-torn country.
However, with some 450,000 people arriving in Europe’s biggest economy so far this year, local authorities are buckling under the sudden surge.
“Given the numbers from yesterday, it is very clear that we have reached the upper limit of our capacity,” said a Munich police spokesman.
Federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt also weighed in, saying “effective measures are necessary now to stop the influx”.
“That includes help for countries from where refugees are fleeing and also includes an effective control of our own borders which also no longer works given the EU’s complete failure to protect its external borders,” he said in a statement. Dobrindt was essentially referring to the border between Turkey and Greece, where many migrants have crossed.
Merkel herself had called Saturday on Athens, while facing its own deep economic crisis, to make more effort to protect the EU’s external borders.
European Union home affairs ministers will hold emergency talks on Monday as “the situation of migration phenomena outside and inside the European Union has recently taken unprecedented proportions”, the Luxembourg presidency.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is also due to hold an emergency meeting on the crisis on Sunday. While Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are housing millions of refugees, many of the wealthy Gulf states are facing increasing scrutiny over their apparent reluctance to take in migrants.
In Munich, order had largely returned to the city’s main railway station on Sunday even though the federal interior ministry said 13,015 people arrived over the past day.
But Germany’s local authorities say they are at the end of their tether.
The president of the Upper Bavaria region, Christoph Hillenbrand, said he did not know “how we can cope”, according to the Bild am Sonntag tabloid which headline its article “Munich on the brink of collapse”.
Bavarian public television BR said the city “came very close to a humanitarian disaster”, although the authorities finally managed to limit the numbers of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor to just a few dozens, rather than the hundreds as earlier feared. The authorities are mulling over whether to open up the Olympiahalle—a stadium used for the 1972 Olympics and which today serves as a concert hall or sports arena—as a temporary shelter for the refugees. —AFP