Updated | Germany reintroduces border checks with Austria, halts trains amid refugee surge

German Interior Minister say country will reinstate border controls and will exit temporarily from the Schengen system

Germany is to reintroduce border controls and will exit temporarily from the Schengen system, the interior minister has said, after the country’s regions said they could no longer cope with a surge of refugees arriving from Austria.

Thomas de Maiziere’s announcement comes after German and Austrian newspapers reported that Germany was planning to close its border with Austria – a move which represents a “dramatic shift in refugee policy.”

The German interior minister also said that the record number of refugees had stretched the system to breaking point and that measures had to be implemented to give some respite to the German state responsible for looking after refugees.

All trains entering the country across it southern border with Austria have been stopped. The service was previously principal conduit through which some 450,000 of refugees have arrived in Germany this year.

The decision was made in a telephone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann, when the two leaders spoke about a "gradual return" to regular border controls, Austrian news agency APA reported. 

On Sunday, Munich – the main entry point of refugees looking to enter Germany – warned that it was unable to accommodate the influx of refugees. The city’s mayor Dieter Reiter said Munich is at “the upper limit” of its capacity, and that city its “1,000 to 5,000” places short of what it needs to be.

On Saturday, 13,015 refugees arrived at the station on trains from Austria. Another 1,400 came on Sunday morning. Reiter, said Munich was “full”, with its capacities completely exhausted.

It has also been reported that Germany has deployed 2,100 riot police to help secure its border with Austria and to stop allowing trains full of refugees to enter the country.

Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported that German officials began reinforcing border controls from 5pm local time after local officials issued a plea for help.

Local German reports also said that Germany wanted to implement tougher inspections at its borders with Czech Republic and Poland. 

The move comes amid reports that Germany is struggling to accommodate thousands of asylum-seekers. Thousands of refugees have been arriving in southern Germany in recent weeks, with some reports suggesting around 13,000 reached Munich on Saturday alone, adding up to about 450,000 others who have already made it to the country this year. 

Interior ministers from the EU’s member states are meeting in Brussels on Monday. They will discuss a plan set out last week by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker to redistribute 160,000 asylum seekers across Europe.

Admitting that Europe is “not in a good place”, on Wednesday, Juncker called for more unity and solidarity.

“The Europe I want to live in is illustrated by those who are helping refugees. The Europe I do not want to live in is represented by those who refuse to help those in need,” he said in a forceful and poignant address.