Refugee Crisis

Austria reinstates border controls in refugee crisis

Austria reinstates border controls in refugee crisis
Refugees arriving at Vienna's Westbahnhof station. Photo: Caritas
Austria will follow Germany's lead and temporarily reinstate border controls to cope with a surge in refugees, the interior minister said on Monday, in a further blow to Europe's passport-free Schengen area.

“Yes, we will proceed as Germany did, which means that temporary controls at the borders are permitted in the framework of Schengen, and we will conduct these temporary border controls,” minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters in Brussels.

“This means controls directly at the border some hours after the preparations today in the Austrian government”, she said ahead of a crisis meeting with her EU counterparts.

“We are in the process of informing the Commission about this,” she added.

European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Brussels was “aware of the reports” of the Austrian decisions “but we have not received the formal notification.”

“We are talking about the next days for these border controls. We will leave open at what crossing points we will do this primarily. In any case, we will start as soon as possible directly at the Austrian-Hungarian border.”

Austria had “massive migration flows” with around 18,000 refugees currently in the country, Mikl-Leitner said.

Germany announced on Sunday that it would reintroduce border controls to deal with the huge influx in migrants after throwing its doors open earlier this month.

Berlin's shock move, which struck at the heart of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, has ramped up the pressure on interior ministers holding emergency talks in Brussels on Monday.

Germany has admitted that Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II has pushed it to the limit and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said there were “many signs that Germany this year will take in not 800,000 refugees, as forecast by the interior ministry, but one million.”

The United Nations refugee agency warned the confusion surrounding border policies around Europe could leave migrants, many of whom have made gruelling treks through the continent, in “legal limbo”.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced earlier on Monday that 2,200 military personnel would help step up checks at the border with Hungary.