The German government announced on Sunday that it would implement temporary border checks after being overwhelmed by the waves of migrants and refugees entering the country.
Berlin announced that the measures would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant and refugee arrivals have soared since Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively opened Germany's borders a week ago.
"The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country," said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, adding the move was also necessary for security reasons.
Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees have entered Germany in recent weeks after making arduous journeys through multiple countries or across the Mediterranean. Germany said it has taken in at least 50,000 migrants and refugees in the last week alone.
Berlin instituted the border control measures — allowed under Europe's Schengen treaty as long as they remain temporary — a day before EU interior ministers are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting to discuss spreading asylum seekers around the 28-nation bloc.
A European Commission proposal that calls for each country to accept refugees under a system of compulsory quotas is meeting strong resistance from some countries, especially in central Europe. Slovakia said on Sunday it would try to block the plan.
While Merkel and the German government have pledged to welcome migrants and refugees, the sheer numbers appeared to be overwhelming. Germany, Europe's largest and richest economy, has become a magnet for many people fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Police said around 13,000 migrants arrived in the southern city of Munich alone on Saturday, followed by another 3,000 on Sunday morning. It appears Germany has joined the list of smaller and poorer countries such as Greece and Hungary that are struggling to manage the huge flow of desperate people.
"This step became necessary," de Maiziere said. "The great willingness to help that Germany has shown in recent weeks — by full-time employees and especially by the many thousands of volunteers — must not be overstrained." Germany halted train traffic from Austria in order to allow for border "checks," Maiziere told the Associated Press.
It was not clear if other borders would be changed to discourage migrants from entering. The European Commission said Germany appeared legally justified in re-imposing border controls, which have been removed in recent decades across much of the continent, and urged action at Monday's meeting in Brussels.
"The German decision of today underlines the urgency to agree on the measures proposed by the European Commission in order to manage the refugee crisis," the Commission said in a statement.
According to International Organization for Migration, a record-breaking 432,761 migrants have entered Europe this year by crossing the Mediterranean. This is double the entire number of those that crossed into Europe via the Mediterranean in 2014, and does not account for the many thousands who have arrived in Europe by traveling over land.
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