Two weeks ago Mrs Merkel told the world that Germany would invite in all Syrian refugees who wished to come. Many commentators waxed lyrical about Germany’s generosity. Some in the UK wrote pieces contrasting Germany’s compassion favourably with the UK government’s wish to avoid false hope and encouragement to people to undertake dangerous journeys. Anyone who raised problems with Germany’s approach was in danger of being condemned as heartless.
This week the German approach has suddenly changed. Germany now wishes to place a limit on how many refuges she can take. Germany now wants other EU member states to undertake proper border checks at the EU’s external border, denying economic migrants access. Just in case they do not manage to do this, Germany has placed new border controls at her frontier, against the spirit of the Shengen open borders policy she subscribes to.
Some of us queried at the time how Germany would distinguish between Syrian refugees, refugees from other countries and economic migrants. We asked how she would avoid a very large number of people deciding they wanted to take advantage of Germany’s apparent generosity. We wanted to know how EU law could be changed overnight by a German statement of policy, when EU law seemed to say in most cases Italy or Hungary or Greece had the task of deciding entry into the EU if the migrants turned up there first.
There remain serious problems with Germany’s latest policy statements. How can a quotas system work? What if the refugees allocated to some of the countries have no wish to stay there, but insist on travelling on to another EU country like Germany with more jobs on offer? For how long will Germany suspend her open borders required of her by the Shengen agreement? As Germany is now cancelling trains that come in from Italy, how much impact will this new policy have on the movement of people and goods other than refugees and economic migrants? Above all, does Germany now regret her previous statements.? What does Germany say to a genuine refugees that has been attempting the dangerous journey to the EU, encouraged by Mrs Merkel’s statement? Why is there now a limit on numbers when before there was no limit?