East Germany Cracks Down on Romanians Entering Country With AM-Germany-Unification, Bjt
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germany on Friday toughened its visa requirements for Romanians in an effort to stop a flood of refugees from that troubled country, an East Berlin government official said.
The East German commissioner for foreigners, however, criticized the decision. ″Our historic and humanitarian responsibility ... demands more far- sightedness,″ said Almuth Berger.
In the last two weeks, thousands of Romanians have been pouring into East Germany, lured by its imminent unification with West Germany and fleeing political strife and uncertainty in their own country.
Romanians overthrew Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in a bloody December revolution. They are scheduled to vote in national elections Sunday after a campaign that has frequently turned violent.
In another move, the East German government said it was lifting visa requirements for citizens of Belgium, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, the state news service ADN reported.
ADN said the government was taking the action to advance European unity.
A government spokesman said East Germany will now require Romanians to prove that they have a personal invitation from an East German before they are allowed to enter.
Nearly 2,000 Romanian refugees have been housed at barracks buildings around East Berlin. Thousands more are believed inside the country, and train stations have become homes to hundreds.
The past few days have seen a marked increase in the number of Romanians on the streets in both East Berlin and West Berlin, many of them begging.
The government spokesman said the visa rules were stiffened because East Germany’s ability to house the impoverished refugees is being stretched. The spokesman said the restrictions were made while officials prepare a new law dealing with foreigners seeking asylum.
An estimated 500,000 East Germans fled their own country over the past year to escape the former Communist regime and seek prosperity in the West. They were taken in by West Germany.
Their exodus gave rise to East Germany’s peaceful revolution that toppled four decades of Communism and led to the nation’s first democratic government.
A flood of Romanians, Poles and other groups into East Germany in recent months has heightened German resentment of foreigners as the nation moves closer to a free market.
The two Germanys signed an economic treaty Friday and plan to merge their economies by July 2. The merger is expected to force many East German factories to close, triggering widespread unemployment.
The new rules for Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Luxemburg allow their citizens to enter without visas and stay for up to three months.
Westerners had only limited travel privileges in the country under the ousted Communist regime.
The government also was preparing to lift visa requirements for citizens of Greece, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Malta, Portugal and Switzerland, ADN said.