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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
Germany braced for World Cup influx
By Sam Wilson
BBC News

An inter-city train in Germany
Arrivals at German borders can expect tougher checks than usual

"Germany is looking forward to its guests!" proclaims the German government in its strategic report ahead of the World Cup.

But, it is probably fair to say, with some trepidation.

The interior ministry is expecting 3.2 million World Cup visitors. But from the 11 participating countries from where a visa is required in Germany, only 45,000 people had applied by the start of June.

Considering each country is allowed 30,000 tickets for the group games, the foreign ministry is expecting a last-minute rush.

The keenest (or, perhaps, best organised) fans appear to be from Ukraine. Fewest applications have come from Togo.

One of the toughest challenges for the authorities is to strike a balance between extending a warm welcome to visitors, while at the same time keeping out those they really do not want in Germany.

Those undesirables come in various guises, from terrorists to football hooligans, from human traffickers to the thousands of women it is feared they may try and smuggle in for prostitution.

Even with Iran we've had negotiations on security
Foreign ministry source

Germany's borders - at 3,757km among the longest in Europe - represent one of the best opportunities for it to prevent any serious disruption of its showpiece event.

That is why Germany is ready to suspend the free travel arrangements it has with certain neighbours under the Schengen agreement. Passport checks may be reimposed on the frontiers with Denmark, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Anti-terror measures

The biggest nightmare for tournament organisers is some kind of terrorist attack.

"It would be a fallacy to believe that Germany is not included in the targets of Islamic terrorism," says Heinz Fromm, chief of Germany's counter-terrorism agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Keeping a close eye on Germany's borders, and talking to immigration services across Europe, will be one arm of the counter-terrorist strategy.

German security agencies are also in close communications with secret services in other countries.

"Even with Iran we've had negotiations on security. They fear some groups may plan something against their team," says a German foreign ministry source.

Air-exclusion zones patrolled by Nato Awacs early-warning aircraft will provide another layer of defence.

Border battle

However a more likely threat of disruption is thought to come from hooligans.

Tight policing in England and the Netherlands is thought likely to prevent most potential offenders from these countries even making it to Germany. But the threat of hooliganism from Central and Eastern Europe is more of an unknown quantity.

A prostitute at work in Munich
There are fears many women will be forced into prostitution

Experts say Polish hooligans may be planning to travel in large numbers.

Last November more than 80 people were arrested after a pre-arranged battle between Polish and German hooligans in a forest on the German side of the border.

However, the German authorities are cautious about building up the threat from the east.

"I don't want to dramatise it. We are in close contact with the Polish authorities and there is a strong tradition of co-operation between German and Polish police," insists deputy interior minister August Hanning.

Checks on brothels

A different challenge is presented by the sex trade. With the arrival of millions of mostly male visitors, there is expected to be a huge increase in demand for prostitution, which is legal in Germany.

Human rights groups have expressed fears that between 30,000 and 60,000 women may be smuggled to Germany and forced into prostitution.

The interior ministry says it takes the matter seriously and will be running awareness campaigns, but believes those figures are much too high.

"It is hard to organise prostitution for four weeks. You need years to plan and build an operation," a ministry source said.

He said no special measures were being planned at German borders - that immigration staff would rely on the same tactics normally used to counter illegal entry - but that widespread checks on brothels and prostitutes were already under way and could be expected to continue.

Asylum claims

Another possibility the authorities are well aware of is that some people will try to use the World Cup as cover to enter the country, and then stay illegally.

A foreign ministry source says they have already uncovered a visa scam in one participating African country, whereby potential migrants were advised to throw away their passports on arrival and claim asylum.

German police rehearse anti-riot drills
German police have been rehearsing for hooligan riots

Germany has made a great deal of welcoming fans who want to join in the party atmosphere, even if they do not have World Cup match tickets. That makes things tricky for immigration services.

"We will always have applicants, especially from poor countries, who will want to come to Germany and stay for economic reasons," says a foreign ministry spokesman.

"The scale of the problem is bigger now, with many coming and claiming to visit the World Cup," he adds.

But he insists it is an issue they are well used to, and the procedure is the same as usual. Visa applicants must prove, in an interview, that they are on a short-term visit, have the funds to travel, and are going to return home.

Visitors from some countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica and Paraguay, do not require visas.

But they may be asked similar questions on arrival. "If they can't prove they can pay, they may be turned back," says the spokesman.

The various challenges faced by the authorities during the World Cup mean that many will be glad when it is over.

Michael Endler, head of Germany's office for sports information, is one who cannot wait.

"I am going to sit in my garden, light up a big cigar, pour myself a stiff cognac and read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with football," he said.


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