The southern German city of Munich has reached its capacity to welcome migrants and refugees said local officials Sunday, after more than 12,200 refugees arrived in the city Saturday alone.
The influx has also raised alarm with federal officials, who warn that the country has also reached its capacity and something needs to be done to slow the surge of people entering to seek asylum.
German officials responded to the crisis Sunday afternoon by saying it would reintroduce border controls, particularly along with border with Austria, in order to stop the flow of migrants and refugees – a move which violates the European Union’s open-borders Schengen agreement. The western European country has also stopped all trains coming from Austria, the principle point from where the asylum seekers enter into Germany. The state has said both moves are temporary, but has not said for how long they will be in place.
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“We had a total of 12,200 refugees on Saturday ... today we’re expecting several hundreds. Given the numbers from yesterday, it is very clear that we have reached the upper limit of our capacity,” a Munich police spokesman told AFP.
“Our aim today would be to transport as many as possible out of here, to make place for new arrivals,” he added.
The number of refugees and migrants to arrive in Munich is substantially lower than the 40,000 that officials initially estimated would reach the city by the end of the weekend, nevertheless the city is still struggling to find space and accommodation for the new arrivals.
The city has considered opening up its Olympiahalle – the city's biggest events venue that was built for the 1972 Olympics – in order to temporarily provide shelter for the refugees.
Munich has been a primary entry point for migrants and refugees who have been traveling by land into Western Europe since they reached the shores of Greece. Most of the new arrivals are from war-torn Syria and other areas of conflict and poverty such as Iraq, Eritrea and Nigeria.
Thousands of them have been migrating north from the Greece mainland, either by foot, bus or train, meeting violence and aggression by officials at almost every border and transportation hub.
According to local press, Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter has been “trembling with rage” that the government has not provided more assistance to the Southern Bavarian city, however other German cities have also been struggling to take in thousands of migrants and refugees.
In the capital Berlin, some 5,500 refugees have arrived over the past week alone, where officials helped set up temporary shelters at the city's Olympic Park.
According to government figures, at least 450,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in January alone, while the country is expected to see a total of 800,000 by the end of the year.
Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt also gave his opinion Sunday, saying “effective measures are necessary now to stop the influx.”
“That includes help for countries from where refugees are fleeing and also includes an effective control of our own borders, which also no longer works given the EU's complete failure to protect its external borders,” he said in a statement, referring to the border between Turkey and Greece where refugees have been entering European territory.
In the meantime, Austria is preparing to deal with another influx of asylum seekers, expecting some 6,000 to 8,000 to arrive by the end of Sunday. Thousands of migrants and refugees have been stranded in Hungary since the country closed its main train station in Budapest last week in order to stop the flow of people from entering Austria and western Europe.
EU interior ministers are due to discuss Monday a proposal by the EU Commissioner to redistribute some 160,000 refugees across EU countries, to limit the burden on particular countries.
Though EU Commissioner Jean-Paul Juncker's announcement has been described as “bold,” the number is minimal compared to how many asylum seekers are in Europe now, and how many more are expected to arrive.