BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s interior minister warned fellow European Union states on Friday not to take national measures against a migrant influx that would burden Germany and threatened action if they did.
Germany, the EU’s largest and most dynamic economy, took in 1.1 million migrants last year, the vast majority of those who reached EU soil, and a backlash is building because of regional authorities’ increasing struggle to cope with the newcomers.
“We will continue to fight for a European way out of the refugee crisis as long as it also promises to be successful in diminishing the number of refugees,” Thomas de Maiziere told the German Bundestag (lower house of parliament).
“However, should some countries try to unilaterally shift the collective problem onto the back of Germany, it would be unacceptable and would not be without consequences from our side in the long term,” he added.
De Maiziere said Germany would “deal more harshly” with migrants who arrive saying they need protection from war or persecution but have actually come for other reasons, or try to prolong their stay by means of tricks or false statements.
He also said it was German interests to stick to the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone for as long as possible.
But a survey published on Friday showed that 58 percent of Germans want border controls to be reintroduced to keep out migrants, even if that causes inconvenience when traveling or transporting freight around Europe.
The Politbarometer survey for public broadcaster ZDF showed more than a third of Germans were against such controls.
Concerns about integration of migrants in German society are also on the rise, with the poll showing that just over half of Germans doubt it will be possible.
Slightly more than one in two think Germany cannot cope with the numbers of migrants arriving. The government expects hundreds of thousands more to come this year.
Reporting by Thorsten Severin and Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Heinrich