Illegal migration to Germany fell sharply last month after Berlin introduced tougher border-control checks, new figures have revealed.
Federal government statistics showed that there were around 4,353 “unauthorised entries” into the country over its land borders in November compared with 18,384 in the previous month.
There was a significant decline in entries from Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, where Germany has tightened controls, as well as from Austria.
According to the same figures, some 900 migrants were found along the Germany-Austria border in November, of which 493 were turned back. Nearly 7,000 migrants were found in the region in October.
Illegal migration has become one of the fiercest public debates in Germany, with chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government vowing to sharply reduce the number of people crossing over the country’s land borders.
‘Border controls make escape routes more dangerous’
It marks a major shift in tone from the Angela Merkel era, when the former German leader welcomed more than a million refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Syria, in 2015 and 2016 with the slogan “wir schaffen das” – “we can handle this.”
Under the new border measures, police are carrying out more inspections of people crossing the frontier and are increasingly targeting vehicles suspected of being used in smuggling operations.
But some commentators have expressed doubts as to whether stricter border controls are the only cause of the fall in the numbers from October through November.
The German police union has said the decrease is only partly linked to the new restrictions, while German broadsheet Die Welt noted that neighbouring countries have stepped up their border controls in response to Berlin’s moves.
Left-wing German MPs have meanwhile argued that border controls do not solve the root problem, increased migration, and warned they could put the lives of asylum seekers at risk.
“Border controls do not prevent people from needing asylum, they only make escape routes even more dangerous,” said Left Party lawmaker Clara Bünger.
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