Germany not planning to shut Polish border to reduce Belarus migrant numbers

Germany not planning to shut Polish border to reduce Belarus migrant numbers
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters such a move would be 'legally questionable'.
2 min read
Horst Seehofer revealed the outgoing government's stance [CHRISTIAN MANG/POOL/AFP/Getty]

Germany has no plans to close its border to Poland despite a sharp increase in asylum seekers arriving via Belarus, even as the EU neighbours discuss taking measures, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday.

Seehofer told reporters the outgoing government under Chancellor Angela Merkel had "no intention" of taking such a drastic step which he said would also be "legally questionable".

In a letter to his Polish counterpart Mariusz Kaminski seen by AFP on Tuesday, Seehofer proposed increasing joint patrols along its border with Poland in response to rising numbers of migrants coming via Belarus.

Seehofer said he had not yet received a response from Warsaw but praised its "very strong initiatives" to reduce the number of migrants newly arriving.

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A powerful German police union this week called for stepped-up checks at the border given the migrants coming via Belarus, which the interior ministry said had reached around 5,700 since the start of the year.

Seehofer repeated EU accusations that the Belarusian authorities are flying migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Minsk and then sending them into the bloc on foot given sanctions imposed on it over a crackdown on the opposition.

He said Merkel would be pressing the issue at a European Union summit this week.

But he stressed "the key to the solution of the problem lies in Moscow" given Russia's outsized economic and political influence on Belarus.

The surge in people crossing over the EU's eastern frontier with Belarus has been difficult for member states unaccustomed to dealing with large-scale arrivals to deal with.

Poland has drawn criticism for its hardline stance that has seen border guards push migrants back across the border with Belarus.

Seehofer said that while Berlin was concerned about the issue, it is not comparable to 2015-16, when more than one million asylum seekers arrived in Germany.