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France to insist on refugee control centres

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France to insist on refugee control centres
A police woman controls a refugee mother and her daughter at the German-Austrian border near Piding, where border checks have been temporarily reinstated. Photo: AFP
16:41 CEST+02:00
French president François Hollande is demanding control centres for refugees be set up in EU border countries like Greece, Italy and Hungary. His call comes ahead of a crucial EU ministers meeting in Brussels.

On Monday French President François Hollande once again called for "registration centres" to be set up in EU frontier countries like Italy, Hungary and Greece, to better manage the influx of refugees and "help avoid what is happening today".

Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be "extremely insistent on the need for control and registration centres to help relieve the pressure.

The pair also discussed the latest developments in the migrant crisis in a phone call late Sunday.

Hollande and Merkel "share the same evaluation of the current situation of the refugees" and agreed that both countries would work together to prepare for Monday's EU interior and justice ministers' meeting on the issue, a spokeswoman for the German government said in a statement.

Publicly at least the French government is backing Germany's decision to bring back border controls along the frontier with Austria.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has stressed the blame for Berlin's unexpected decision lay elsewhere.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel “is not closing the door to migrants,” Cazeneuve told French radio as questions mount over the future of the EU's borderless rules known as Schengen.

“She is restoring border controls to ensure that those who come to Germany are those who have refugee status and to make sure the countries that border Germany comply with the Schengen rules,” said the French minister.

"These rules, in particular, require the registration of migrants in the country where they crossed the (EU's) external borders," said Cazeneuve.

Because some countries have not kept to these rules "Germany has decided to temporarily establish border controls", he added.

The meeting is expected to bring to a head the tension that has been developing between France, Germany and Austrai on one side and several eastern European countries on the other other over how to handle the refugee crisis.

France and Germany insist that the EU's obligatory refugee quota plan aimed at relocating 160,000 refugees must be implemented, but eastern European countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic continue to object.

Germany made the decision to reimpose border controls after admitting it could no longer cope with a record influx of refugees. The city of Munich alone recorded an influx of 63,000 asylum seekers in two weeks.

The move effectively suspends participation of Europe's economic powerhouse in the 28-nation bloc's borderless system, one of the cornerstones of the European integration project since it was created in the 1990s.

In setting up the controls Merkel has apparently backtracked on an earlier decision to throw open the country's doors to Syrian refugees.

But the move is seen as a tactic to put pressure on eastern European countries like Hungary, who are so far resistant to the EU's plan to share the burden of a refugees through a mandatory quota system.

Under the Schengen agreement, temporary border controls are allowed for reasons of "public policy or internal security".

French press critical of Merkel

While the French government's reaction to Germany closing its borders was fairly timid, sections of the press did not hold back, with many regional newspapers carrying editorial's scolding Berlin.

"Europe is at the mercy of the sudden turns of "mummy Merkel," wrote La Voix du Nord.

Other right wing politicians have been critical of Germany for first opening its doors to migrants and  then appearing to slam them shut.

However the country's influential anti-immigration National Front party were left rejoicing Germany's decision

Marine Le Pen's party on Sunday party urged France's leaders to "suspend urgently the Schengen agreement and re-establish its borders, especially with Germany."

In a statement signed by Le Pen, the National Front said France needed to close its border "to prevent the overflow of illegal immigrants who couldn't get to Germany, from coming here". 

But Interior Minister Cazeneuve dismissed her idea as "stupid", claiming very few refugees cross the borders from Germany into France.

 

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