EU refugee crisis: Germany reinstates border controls and exits Schengen agreement as refugee system "reaches its limit"

Clara Guibourg
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Thousands are arriving daily to Munich's Hauptbahnhof (Source: Getty)

Germany has reinstated border controls with Austria and temporarily exited the Schengen system, overwhelmed by the number of refugees arriving to the country daily, as EU leaders gear up for an emergency summit about the biggest refugee crisis since World War II..

These emergency measures are designed to take some pressure off Germany's overheated asylum system, as government officials said that the system had stretched to the limits of its capacity.

All trains between Austria and Germany were stopped at 5pm on Sunday, from which time only EU citizens were allowed to pass through the country's borders. The Schengen agreement, established 30 years ago, allows for free movement of people between the participating European countries.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that Germany's decision was further proof of how urgent it is for EU leaders to agree on joint measures for how to handle the refugee crisis:

The free movement of people under Schengen is a unique symbol of European integration. However, the other side of the coin is a better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping with the refugee crisis. This is why Monday's extraordinary Council of Interior Ministers is so important. We need swift progress on the Commission's proposals now.

Some 1,000 people are thought to be arriving daily to Berlin alone, and on Saturday, 13,000 refugees reached Munich, reported German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. The country’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the newspaper that resources were becoming insufficient:

The European lack of action in the refugee crisis is now pushing even Germany to the limit of its ability.

At an emergency summit on Monday, EU leaders will be deciding on mandatory quotas, as well as emergency support for countries like Hungary, Greece and Italy. Germany and France are among those calling for larger quotas, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been outspoken in recent weeks on the moral obligation to welcome refugees:

There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.

Germany is expecting some 800,000 people seeking asylum to arrive this year. The UK, by contrast, accepted roughly 10,000 asylum applicants last year, according to Eurostat figures.

David Cameron has said that the UK will be accepting 20,000 more Syrian refugees until 2020, but has come under fire both from political opponents and other EU leaders, for not accepting a bigger share.

Read more: Boris Johnson: London should help

The escalating refugee crisis has been followed by an outpouring of grief and outrage in recent weeks, as shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on the shores of a Mediterranean beach jolted public consciousness of the crisis into higher gear.

Solidarity marches have been arranged across Europe to put pressure on governments to solve the humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands, including newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, joined a march in London yesterday.

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