Migrants caught in cold as German, Austrian officials trade barbs
“Yesterday, I was here from five o’clock in the morning to two o’clock the next night. But the police didn’t open the border,” said Murtaza, an 18-year-old Afghan at one of the crossings, Simbach am Inn.
Wrapped in several layers of blankets and huddled close to each other for warmth, about 100 refugees were waiting at the crack of dawn to cross into Germany from Austria.
“It’s very cold here, the old people is sick, and some children is very badly sick and I don’t know… no one will care about the refugees,” Murtaza added in halting English.
After a slight drop in early October, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany has risen again in recent days, putting authorities under intense pressure.
At the southeastern town of Passau alone, federal police counted 5,500 new arrivals on Tuesday.
As German officials scramble to find shelter and ready infrastructure to welcome the newcomers, tempers frayed with regional authorities hitting out at the Austrians, accusing the neighbours of waving refugees on without informing them of their numbers.
“Austria’s behaviour in recent days was out of line. We have to complain that refugees were driven without any warning after dark to… the German border,” said Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
The two sides have discussed the problem, he said, adding that “Austria yesterday pledged to return to an orderly process.”
“I expect that to happen immediately. We are in constant contact on that aspect,” he said.
Bavaria’s state premier Horst Seehofer had complained on Tuesday that “Austria’s behaviour is hurting our neighbourly relations.”
“We cannot and should not deal with each other this way,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse.
German federal police spokesman Heinrich Onstein said: “We are doing everything to prevent the migrants from having to sleep outdoors.”
“The problem is that we do not know how many people will arrive, and at which border post,” he added.
Austrian police however hit back, rejecting the claims as “a joke”.
“If Austria receives 11,000 people in Spielfeld on a daily basis, Bavaria cannot say that it will process only up to 50 people an hour at its border. That’s a joke,” said police spokesman David Furtner.
– ‘They tell us nothing’ –
Meanwhile at the Simbach border crossing, migrants had other things on their minds than the tensions between the two EU neighbours.
To shield themselves from the bitter wind, the asylum seekers had draped cloths over the sides of the bridge leading into Germany.
“In Syria, I left because of the bombs and now, here, it’s like a prison. They tell us nothing, we know nothing,” said an elderly man named Walid.
“Yesterday, some people of my family could go but not me, and my two daughters. The German police didn’t explain why, and now, my family is cut in two,” he said.
A dozen migrants who were tired of waiting, including several with children in tow, decided to take the risk of crossing a railway bridge to get into Germany.
“I know it’s dangerous, but I didn’t want to wait more,” said a young Afghan who declined to give his name.
As it turned out, barely minutes after they started off, they were greeted by a German police officer who said, “Hello! You’re in Germany now. Follow me, this way.”
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