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Head of German refugee office quits as migrant crisis grows

The head of Germany’s refugee office, which has been criticised for its handling of record numbers of asylum seekers, has resigned, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Manfred Schmidt’s departure, which was for personal reasons, came as the number of refugees entering Germany doubled in 24 hours and controls were extended to cover the border with the Czech Republic.

Schmidt’s resignation is likely to increase scrutiny of his boss, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who has come under pressure because officials have been slow to process the flood of refugee arrivals.

“The interior minister regrets the loss of the head of an authority who performed an excellent job,” a statement said.

“The Office for Migration and Refugees is in focus in the current political situation. The dramatically rising number of asylum seekers in Germany poses enormous challenges to the Office as well as to Germany’s states and municipalities.”

The organisation’s decision in August to change its guidelines to allow refugees from Syria into Germany regardless of where they entered the EU has been widely seen as triggering an influx of tens of thousands asylum seekers in the last few weeks alone.

Police said Germany had extended its border controls to the frontier with the Czech Republic to stop human traffickers and cope with growing numbers of asylum seekers.

The border controls went into force late on Wednesday on the motorway connecting the Czech Republic to the eastern German state of Saxony, spokesman Christian Meinhold said. Four traffickers had been arrested since then.

Although Germany’s southern borders are part of the open-travel Schengen area, it decided on Sunday to temporarily reintroduce border checks in response to the refugee crisis, with police focusing on the Austrian border first.

Police said the number of refugees arriving in Germany on Wednesday had more than doubled to 7,266 on Wednesday from 3,442 the previous day.

“Most of them were picked up when crossing the German-Austrian border,” federal police spokeswoman Judith Toelle said.

In the Austrian city of Salzburg, police said between 200 and 300 refugees had arrived overnight by train from Vienna.

Some of them set off on foot towards the German border a few kilometres away. At the border, police said around 200 people were already waiting to be let into Germany.

A police spokesman said they planned to put the refugees on trains so they could be sent to other parts of Germany.

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