Germany and Austria agree refugee rules

  • 31/10/2015
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters)

Germany has agreed with Austria to new rules for a more "orderly" passage of migrants, as the death of 17 children at sea highlighted the treacherous journey of those trying to reach Europe.

After a week in which tensions flared between the neighbour states, Germany's interior ministry said that the influx massing at its border with Austria would now be funnelled through five entry points.

"We would like to have a more orderly procedure," a spokeswoman for the interior ministry told AFP on Friday (local time) following a bilateral agreement which took immediate effect.

There was more grim news on Friday evening as the Spanish coastguard called off the search for 35 people lost at sea when their boat went down between Spain and Morocco. Four bodies had already been pulled from the water.

Germany imposed controls at its 800km-long frontier with Austria in mid-September in a bid to slow the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers per day.

But tempers erupted again this week when Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday accused Austria of sending asylum seekers to its border without any warning, prompting the urgent talks between the two sides.

Vienna announced plans this week to build a "barrier" at its Slovenian border to stem the tide, drawing criticism from French President Francois Hollande, who said such walls had no place within the European Union.

As Europe struggles to find a response its worst migrant crisis since World War II, nine adults lost their lives along with the 17 children when the boats went down in frigid waters en route to Greece from Turkey.

Rescue officials in Greece and Turkey managed to pull another 157 people from the water.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed "shame" over Europe's failure to prevent yet another "humanitarian tragedy", and said it was crucial to prevent the Aegean Sea from becoming a graveyard for people fleeing war and misery.

Since the start of the year, 560,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Greece by sea, out of over 700,000 who have reached Europe via the Mediterranean, according to the IOM.

More than 3200 have died during the perilous crossings, the vast majority on the longer sea route from Libya to Italy.

Meanwhile James Bond actor Daniel Craig joined a chorus of concern for desperate people fleeing war and persecution, telling AFP: "There is a human tragedy going on. It is up to European governments to step forward and get this sorted."