Bridge to Germany

One Border Town's Struggle with Refugees

refugees picture alliance
Asylum seekers await entry to Germany on the Saalach Bridge.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Swelling numbers of refugees entering Germany from the south are straining the resources in normally quiet communities along the Austrian border.

  • Facts


    • Up to 50 refugees per hour are crossing the bridge between Austria and Germany at Freilassing.
    • It is among five border-crossing points from Austria into Germany.
    • With more than 800,000 refugees expected to apply for asylum in Germany this year, border town officials are calling for more assistance from Berlin.
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It was a gesture of Berlin’s support for Bavaria when federal police flew by helicopter directly to Freilassing last month.

The help arrived in mid-September after Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière gave the order for police to supervise the entry of refugees into Germany along the Austrian border. The temporary border controls are a stopgap measure to help communities there manage the overwhelming flow of asylum seekers into the country, which the government estimates will exceed 800,000 by year’s end.

One of those communities is Freilassing, Bavaria, which is linked to Salzburg in Austria via the Saalach Bridge. One of five border crossings between the two countries, the bridge has quickly become a symbol of the refugee crisis.

Here, residents have long enjoyed the privilege of traveling freely between these two countries connected by a common language. Border checks were abolished when the European Union’s Schengen Area was introduced. But now red and white pylons constrict the lanes, while federal police patrol for vehicles smuggling people across the border. Radio traffic reports say the roadway is “jammed up due to border controls.”

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