Bavarian police have admitted they are not fingerprinting thousands of migrants who come through German borders because they are overwhelmed.
A senior police union official told Der Spiegel up to 300 people were crossing the border with Austria every day without being properly registered. It is estimated that 45,000 dodged the system in 2014 alone.
Migrants crossing the Bavarian border from Austria would be travelling the Western Balkan route, which sees migrants cross over from Greece to northern Europe via Albania or the FYROM, Bosnia and Herzegovina Serbia, Hungary or Slovenia and eventually Austria.
Federal Police chief Dieter Romann was quick to move in with a denial, saying police do question migrants entering German borders and take their pictures, details and fingerprints which are then put in a database.
However, he was forced to admit to reporters in Berlin on Monday that officers are not always able to fingerprint new arrivals within the 48-hour maximum time limit allowed by law. The migrants are told to report to the next reception centre, where they can be processed. The problem is that there is no way of knowing if they actually do.
A German diplomat told Migrant Report Berlin was aware of the problem and was actively working to tackle it.
“In the long run, we believe all migrants go through the system because the vast majority of those going through Germany want to apply asylum there, however, there are problems because the system is struggling in certain states,” the diplomat said.
The Italian government will likely receive the news with glee, having borne the brunt of Berlin’s scorn for years for not fingerprinting migrants. Italy has maintained a lax attitude to the registration of migrants, effectively allowing them to proceed on to northern Europe, where they would then formally seek asylum.
According to the EU’s so-called Dublin regulations, migrants must be processed and kept in the country where they first land. Frontline states have long protested the system as being unfair on them but there has been no consensus for change.
As a result, Italy has been at the receiving end of sustained criticism for not implementing the crucial first step of fingerprinting. And not only by Germany. The point was at the heart of the recent flareup at the border between France and Germany, when Paris decided to step up security and push back migrants trying to cross from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia.
In his first instalment to a tit-for-tat that followed that decision, the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve brought up Italy’s slacking on the registration of migrants.
“The Dublin rules must be respected. When migrants, who have been through Italy and were registered there, arrive in France, the European law applies and that means they must be returned to Italy. They do not have the right to pass and must be handled by Italy,” he said.
Italy has long argued that it could not cope with the numbers (in 2014 alone more than 170,000 people landed on its shores) but the northern states were unconvinced.
Berlin has been struggling with the influx both at a political and infrastructural level. In June states and municipalities had their funding to deal with migration was doubled to €1billion.