Czechs beef up border security after German move

Photo: CTK

A decision by Germany on Sunday to reintroduce border controls with Austria in the wake of a seemingly endless flow of refugees, mainly comping from Syria, has led to a similar decision being taken by Czech authorities. As of Monday, around two-hundred police have been sent to the Czech-Austrian and also Czech-Slovak borders amidst fears that the German decision could lead to a spike in the numbers of migrants traversing Czech territory.

Milan Chovanec,  photo: CTK
Germany’s hitherto open-armed policy towards the wave of refugees arriving from the Middle East and Africa suffered an apparent reversal on Sunday after the country’s interior minister Thomas de Maiziere announced a re-introduction of border controls with Austria and also temporarily suspended train services between the two countries. The move immediately led the Czech Republic, fearful of migrants shifting their transit route via Czech territory, to strengthen border controls on the Czech-Austrian and Czech-Slovakian borders. The Slovak authorities have also announced increased controls on the Slovak-Hungarian border.

Speaking to Czech Television as the news broke on Sunday, interior minister Milan Chovanec explained that the extent of border controls would depend on the degree of the measures taken on the German side:

“It depends on how wide German controls will be, and whether they really intend to temporarily withdraw from the Schengen system or whether they have merely increased police checks. Unfortunately, we only learned of Germany’s decision from the media, meaning we don’t have the precise details of what Germany intends.”

Overnight, Czech police reported that they had detained 12 migrants illegally crossing into Czech territory – a number no higher on average than before Germany announced the new measures. The interior ministry declined to specify where specifically the police would be sent, although reports suggest they will be situated at three railway and 11 road border crossings. Asked why the Czech Republic had reacted in this way, Minister Chovanec cited adherence to the so-called Dublin Regulation, a European law governing the asylum process of the member states:

Photo: CTK
“We are the only possible bypass route and are doing the maximum to send a strong signal that we intend to enforce European law on our borders, including the Dublin Regulation. We intend to increase our police presence at the borders in order to be able to return migrants to the neighbouring country of origin, exactly as stipulated by European law.”

Europe’s interior ministers are discussing the current crisis today at an emergency meeting in Brussels. Meanwhile, the Czech immigration (or foreign) police service has stated that a further consolidation of border checks will depend on whether migrants really do increasingly turn to the Czech Republic as a transit destination.