Germany Wants to Use Army Troops to Clamp Down on Immigration
BONN, Germany (AP) _ Despite evidence that illegal immigration is actually decreasing, Germany is hardening its borders against fortune-seekers and refugees pressing to enter the country.
Interior Minister Manfred Kanther told reporters that soldiers with night- vision goggles would be sent to help control Germany’s 759 miles of border with the Czech and Polish republics, the main avenue of illegal immigration.
They will bolster 4,000 border patrolmen using infrared cameras and German shepherd dogs in their battle with the bands of smugglers who have multiplied since the country did away with its liberal asylum law.
About 450,000 foreigners entered Germany last year under the old law that permitted anyone to come to Germany and apply for political asylum.
A draft law in Parliament would punish people smugglers with jail sentences of up to five years. Until now, their multi-million dollar activities haven’t been prosecuted.
″We need a deterrent against the smugglers,″ Kanther said Monday night. ″If we can keep them from crossing the border, they lose money.″
Polls show immigration is the No. 2 issue for German voters, after unemployment, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his ministers have been hitting it hard as they prepare for next year’s federal and state elections.
Authorities feared an upswing in illegal immigration after parliament did away with that law and new restrictions went into effect July 1.
But Border Patrol statistics don’t bolster these fears.
In the first nine months of 1993, police arrested 44,512 illegal immigrants. That is roughly the same number as all last year, but the number of arrests peaked in February and declined steadily through August, with only a slight increase in September.
Only 1,700 immigrants from Romania, one of the major sources for illegals, entered Germany in September, compared with more than 12,000 Romanians in April.
″They get flown home as soon as they come in, and this is discouraging them,″ said Border Patrol official Volker Amler in Berlin.
The Border Patrol’s strength in eastern Germany has doubled in the past year, but Amler said he would welcome the soldiers and their night vision equipment.
″The border is very long, don’t forget, and its all green. There are no walls, no fences,″ he said.
Police estimate that for every arrest they make, about three other people enter Germany undetected, said Peter Fuchs, the Border Patrol spokesman in Koblenz.
Recently, smuggler bands have been using a new route, through Denmark, to bring in ethnic Albanians from the Kosovo region of Serbia, Fuchs said.
Most of the Albanians originally applied for political asylum in Sweden but were turned down and decided to try their luck in Germany, Fuchs said.