GERMANY is discovering the downside of open borders in Europe.
Thousands of East Europeans, mostly Romanians and Bulgarians, are
camping out just beyond Germany's eastern frontier, waiting for a
chance to slip into the land of prosperity.
It is the scene of a nightly cat-and-mouse game between German
border guards and determined illegal migrants who wade from Poland
across the Neisse River or scramble over the mountains from
Two hundred extra border guards, as well as helicopters and
boats, have been sent to the area. But if the migrants know to utter
the magic word "asyl" when they are caught, they are sent on to a
refugee camp in eastern Germany instead of being delivered back
across the border.
Germany has one of the most liberal asylum laws in Europe, and
the number of asylum seekers here is markedly rising - to the point
where many Germans want to hang out the "no vacancy" sign.
As German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said in a television interview
last Sunday, this is "no land of immigration." He wants to alter the
clause in the German Constitution which sanctions the right to seek
asylum. He is backed in this by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble,
who is also pushing a coordinated European approach to the
continent's new problem of mass migration.
Economic upheaval in Eastern Europe is the driving force behind
the wave of asylum requests in Europe, says Mr. Schauble. Political
persecution plays only a "marginal" role, he said in a press
statement last week.
So far this year, according to Schauble, requests for refugee
status are up 15 percent in Germany. More than 200,000 asylum
seekers are expected by year end. Half of the asylum requests made
in Europe last year were filed in Germany.
Meanwhile, next to Italy, Germany has the highest number of
illegal aliens in Europe, an estimated 400,000, according to the
International Labor Organization.
Bonn is to begin bilateral talks on the migration issue with
Warsaw later this month and with Prague in September. Schauble hopes
he can arrange a meeting on the subject in October with leaders from
France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.
The migration problem, he says, is a pan-European one. What's
needed, the interior minister suggests, is a harmonization of asylum
procedures and criteria within the European Community, as well as
aid to Eastern Europe to improve living conditions there. He also
wants to see Germany's system of refugee distribution - in which
each German state has a quota matched to its estimated ability to
absorb refugees - adopted by the EC.
The European approach is all well and good, say local politicians
in Germany, but their country has an immediate crisis on its hands
and needs fast relief. …