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Wednesday, 1 December 1976

Mr Abel (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has his attention been drawn to a report on page 6 of the Age of 5 October 1976, headlined 'Reds Plan a Wall to Seal Germany', which detailed moves by the East German Government to extend and reinforce 'the wall' surrounding that country.

(2)   Can he say if the East German Government is acting in this way; if so, to what extent.

(3)   Over what percentage, and for how many kilometres, of its borders does East Germany maintain its 'wall '.

(4)   Between East Germany and what other countries does this 'wall 'stand.

(5)   How many persons are known to have lost their lives at the borders in attempting to (a) leave and (b) enter East Germany since World war II.

(6)   What is the official explanation given by the East German Government for the maintenance and expansion of its wall' which consists of a wire mesh fence, trip wires, remote controlled mines, an anti-vehicular trap, a soft-earth strip and special motor cycle tracks.

(   7 ) What is the real reason for ' the wall '.

Mr Peacock - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Articles in the Western Press have reported the construction of a new barrier on the border between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This construction is said to be the fourth barrier to be raised along the border since World War II. It is understood that work on this barrier began in April 1976 and is now about two-thirds completed.

(3)   The new barrier extends over approximately 1346 km of the GDR's total borders which is about 60 per cent of the total GDR frontier with other countries.

(4)   The barrier currently being erected stands on the border between the GDR and the FRG. There is also a barrier separating West Berlin from the territory of the GDR.

(5)   Figures on the number of people who have left the GDR illegally since 1945 vary from source to source. One source claims that over 3 million GDR citizens have left the country illegally since 1949, and that 173 people have lost their lives attempting to leave the GDR for West Germany or West Berlin since the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Other sources put the figure of deaths at between 200 and 500 people. No cases are known of people losing their lives attempting to enter the GDR illegally, although many arrests of ' illegal immigrants' have been made by the GDR authorities. A recent case involved the arrest of a West Berliner who ran across the border waving a black flag in protest at the action of GDR border guards m shooting down a would-be defector at the Berlin Wall.

(6)   The official GDR explanation for the barrier between the GDR and the FRG is that it is a normal border installation on the border between sovereign States, and that the controls exercised at the border are normal controls exercised by any sovereign State on its frontiers. The GDR claims that the barriers have been erected to protect its territorial integrity and to prevent incursion into the GDR by militaristic and revanchist elements' from the West and to prevent the luring of GDR citizens to the West with 'propaganda ' and ' false promises '.

(7)   The barriers between the GDR and the FRG were established after the illegal departure of almost 2.5 million people from the GDR for the FRG. After the border with the FRG had been effectively sealed, the main departure point became West Berlin and in August 1961 construction began on a wall to seal off West Berlin from the territory of the GDR. This reduced the flow of illegal departures substantially. As the total population has declined since the creation of the GDR, the authorities there obviously feel it necessary to maintain an effective control over emigration from the country.

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