FOCUS online on site: Punches, bites, kicks: Federal police are worried about increasingly brutal smugglers.
The number of asylum applications in Germany has increased by more than 73 percent. The brutality of the smugglers is becoming increasingly grotesque. FOCUS online accompanied the police in their work.
The rain clouds hang low over the dense forest near Zelz, Brandenburg on this warm October morning. The Neisse winds its way through the wild river valley, half dry, and the vegetation here still shines lush green.
Since August, the small pedestrian bridge that spans the river has increasingly served as a shelter for larger groups of Syrians, Afghans and Turks to cross illegally between Poland and Germany.
Illegal border crossings: focus now in southern Brandenburg
On this October day, dozens of federal police units are also on the move as veiled investigators along the 258 kilometer long border that separates Brandenburg and Poland. In the second half of summer, the focus of illegal border crossings shifted from Frankfurt an der Oder to the southern Brandenburg area of the Forest Police Department, says First Police Chief Inspector Jens Schobranski.
“In September alone we counted around 2,000 illegal border crossings along the entire border – the highest number since the around 3,000 people in October 2021, when an extremely large number of refugees came to us via the Belarus route,” said the spokesman for the Berlin Federal Police. Brandenburg.
Attentive citizens report migrant groups at the border to the police
Larger groups of people are being caught in this border area more and more often; it is not uncommon for there to be 50 or 60 people in a single day. Whether in places like tiny Zelz, where there are only a few houses, or in the district town of Forst with its around 21,000 inhabitants: it is increasingly attentive citizens who report conspicuous groups of people to the security authorities.
Citizen information is becoming increasingly important, explains Schobranski. “You call us and tell us where exactly how many people are traveling, we then immediately send one or more patrols there, record the personal details and then forward them to the country’s initial reception facility.”
“Many migrants are relieved when they see police officers”
The number of people who applied for asylum in Germany nationwide by the end of September increased by 73.3 percent compared to the same period last year. This is not only noticeable in the increasing overload of the municipalities, but also in the direct confrontation at the border with the federal police.
If the refugees and migrants have already been dropped off on Polish soil by the smugglers, the encounters with the federal police are usually calm. “Many are actually really relieved when their colleagues take them up, because most of them want to go to Germany and have to register,” says Schrobranski.
“Smugglers hit, kick, bite police officers”
But more and more often, vehicle checks on country and federal roads as well as motorways, where the veil investigators pick up refugees in smuggling vehicles, are becoming rough and even violent.
“The smugglers are becoming more and more aggressive. “Their vehicles are usually packed to capacity with people, as many as the vehicle can physically hold,” reports Schrobranski’s colleague Frank Mallack, also First Police Chief Inspector.
“If the smugglers fall into the hands of their colleagues, they defend themselves more and more violently with punches, kicks and even bites.”
Fear of suffocation – Migrants tear rubber seal from car window
The refugees themselves would also suffer more and more from the stricter conditions of smuggling. The reason: the main refugee route that most migrants who come to Germany via Brandenburg would choose no longer leads via Belarus, but via the Balkans. Mallack: “Most people travel to the German border via Slovakia and Poland, which is lucrative for the smugglers, but also dangerous because their journeys take up to twelve hours.”
According to the police officer, there are increasing cases in which his colleagues encounter completely dehydrated migrants who are exhausted from the rigors of the journey. In addition, the smugglers would not provide their passengers with food or water.
And they try to stop as rarely as possible, since every stop increases the risk of being discovered by the police. “A few days ago we rescued a large group from a van who, fearing suffocation, had torn out the rubber seal on the window that separates the cargo area from the driver’s cab.”
Fatal accident during smuggler escape from police
Even on the East German border with Poland, smugglers are increasingly having extremely dangerous reactions when they stumble into a police checkpoint. To escape the clutches of the police, some jump out of the moving vehicle and leave their illegal passengers to fend for themselves.
However, there have not yet been any serious accidents like those in Bavaria. Seven people, including a small child, were killed on the A94 on Friday morning when a smuggler attempted to evade a police check.
Schobranksi and Mallack’s colleagues also checked several vehicles on this October morning. However, the stripes are out of luck.
Schobranski: “The smugglers are becoming more and more clever. Many now send scouts to the border crossings to check whether the coast is clear. If they see our emergency vehicles, all they need to do is call them on their cell phone and they will look for another route.”