On Friday, the policy of free movement within the EU was put into doubt by Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble.
Europe’s open borders might be “close” to an end, the minister said after a meeting of the EU’s finance ministers in Brussels. The Schengen system could soon collapse, with more of the bloc’s 28 member states introducing internal border checks, the German official told reporters.
'The whole EU is in question'
Additionally, on Sunday the Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann announced in an interview with the magazine Österreich that the Schengen agreement, which permits the free movement of persons between most European Union countries without identity checks, has been 'temporarily suspended.'
Faymann said that with the new measures introduced at Austria’s borders, the existence of “the whole EU is in question.”
“All refugees must be controlled, economic migrants must be sent to the countries of their origin,” Faymann said in the interview published on Sunday.
The government is implementing a strict monitoring system for asylum seekers, the chancellor said, adding that, just like in neighbouring Germany, its border controls are being tightened, and repatriations of refugees are carried out.
“If the EU does not manage to secure the external borders, Schengen as a whole is put into question…Then each country must control its national borders,” Faymann told the newspaper, adding that if the bloc’s external borders are not secured in the near future, “the whole EU [will be] in question.”
Currently, due to a recent change of policy in Germany, hundreds of would-be migrants are being turned back at the border.
Special concerns have been raised by Germany with the governments of Algeria and Morocco, whose citizens have been seen in increasing numbers.
Around 1,000 people are rejected at the Austrian border each week.
Under the new policy from Austria, migrants arriving in Austria intending to travel through Germany and beyond will be turned away, according to a foreign ministry spokesman.
Similar policies are expected to be introduced in Slovenia in the coming days.
“What is the situation currently on the German-Austrian border? That only those who want asylum in Germany are being let through, and those who want to travel onward are sent back,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told state broadcaster ORF, as quoted by Reuters.
“We will stop them directly on our southern border [with Slovenia] as of the end of next week,” Mikl-Leitner added.
The soldiers’ presence will be made “clearly visible” to deter migrants trying to find illegal ways into Austria.