A sign reading 'control' ('Kontrolle') stands on the road at the German-Austrian border near Lindau, southern Germany, on September 13, 2015. (AFP)
In a decision that highlights the pressure on European countries by the influx of migrants flooding through its borders, Germany has temporarily reinstated controls at the Austrian border and halted train traffic. The move effectively suspends Germany's participation in the European Union’s borderless Schengen system, one of the cornerstones of the European integration project that began in the 1990s.
The decision was announced by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Saturday after officials claimed that record numbers of refugees, mostly from Syria, had stretched the system to a breaking point.
“This step has become necessary,” he said at a press conference in Berlin, adding he was aware that the move would cause disruption.
"The aim of this measure is to stop the current influx to Germany and to return to an orderly process," he added.
Refugees must understand “they cannot choose the states where they are seeking protection,” and that only EU citizens as well as those with valid documentation would be permitted to pass through German borders, he said.
On Saturday, 13,015 refugees arrived at a train station in Munich from Austria. Another 1,400 came on Sunday morning, said the city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter.
All train traffic between Austria and Bavaria was stopped at 5 pm Berlin time for 12 hours. The route is the main conduit that some 450,000 asylum seekers have used to enter Germany this year.
Germany’s measures were hailed by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose country is constructing a fence along its border with Serbia to halt the passage of asylum seekers.
"We have great understanding for Germany's decision and we voice our full solidarity," the Bild newspaper reported Orban as saying. "We understand that this decision was necessary in order to defend Germany's and Europe's values."
The Czech Republic has also announced that it will be carrying out a similar move with its border with Austria.