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GERMANY STARTS REFUSING REFUGEES AT THE BORDER

SHARE GERMANY STARTS REFUSING REFUGEES AT THE BORDER

Paramilitary police began turning back refugees at the borders Thursday as Germany's restrictive new asylum law went into effect.

In an about-face to a liberal German immigration policy that allowed more than 2 million asylum-seekers to cross into the country since 1989, at least 110 refugees were stopped before dawn Thursday after crossing into Germany from Poland and the Czech Republic.All were sent back to those two countries, considered safe nations under Germany's new asylum law. The refugees came from Ukraine, Romania, Eritrea, Pakistan, India, Algeria and elsewhere.

About 80 were caught trying to sneak into Bavaria from the Czech Republic. A border police outpost in the east German city of Frankfurt an der Oder said it turned back 32 illegal refugees who crossed over from neighboring Poland.

Reports from other border control points were not yet in. Germany's border with the Czech Republic and Poland is 766 miles long.

Most of the 438,000 asylum-seekers who crossed into Germany the past year used Poland and what is now the Czech Republic as transit countries.

Before now, refugees could just cross into Germany and ask for asylum. Refugees have stayed years as authorities considered their requests.

The new law essentially seals off Germany to asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by land. The refugees don't even have the chance to prove they are running for their lives.

Refugees already in Germany will be deported if they are unable to prove they are fleeing persecution.

"I'm just waiting for a knock on the door," said Trifi Caldaras, a Romanian at a Bonn asylum shelter. Germany considers Romania a "safe country," although Caldaras and other Gypsies claim they face persecution there.

Neighboring countries, fearful the refugees Germany rejects will be dumped on them, are preparing to bolt their own doors.

"After the Cold War we were going to build a common European house. But instead we're building a European fortress, surrounded by walls," said Herbert Leuninger, spokesman for Pro-Asyl, a German lobby for refugees.

Germany's 44-year-old asylum policy, written into the Constitution to atone for the Nazis' persecution of foreigners, essentially let all refugees stay for an unlimited time.

The policy made Germany the primary European refuge for asylum-seekers.

Politicians scrapped the policy because they said it was draining social welfare coffers.

Some also hoped decreasing refugees would help control violence against foreigners.