East Germans seeking asylum in the West have taken refuge in West German embassies in Warsaw and Bucharest in recent days, Bonn government officials said today.
The latest siege is expected to complicate efforts to resolve the cases of more than 160 East Germans who have been holed up for several weeks inside the West German embassies in Prague and Budapest. The total number inside the four embassies reportedly is nearly 200, according to the officials, who asked to remain anonymous.
The refugees have demanded full assurances that they will be allowed to emigrate to the West once they consent to leave the embassies. But East German authorities have refused any guarantees to the asylum seekers, apparently in the belief that capitulation to their demands will encourage other desperate citizens to emulate their tactics.
In the past, when East Germans sought asylum by taking refuge in West German diplomatic missions in East Berlin or Prague, they were quietly permitted to leave the country after protracted negotiations in which the Bonn government paid out as much as $20,000 per person to secure their release.
But the East German government has taken a much tougher position during the current siege, a development that some officials in Bonn attribute to greater pressure from Moscow for a hard-line policy on emigration.
East Germany has said the refugees will not be punished if they return home and seek to leave the country through the normal process of seeking exit visas.
Some of the East Germans who have been in the Prague embassy for more than a month have given up and returned to their homes during the past two days, Bonn government spokesman Peter Boenisch said today.
But most of the refugees reportedly are unconvinced by the promises of immunity and fear that they might have to wait several years before their exit visas are approved.
The Bonn government repeatedly has warned East Germans not to exploit its diplomatic missions as escape routes to the West, a stance Boenisch reiterated today. But the refugees cannot be thrown out because under the country's constitution, all Germans are entitled to West German citizenship.
More than 35,000 East Germans have come to the West this year in the largest exodus since the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
The East German government has promised Bonn that several thousand more emigrants will be allowed to leave before the end of the year, according to Horst Teltschik, a senior foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Diplomats in East Berlin say the government has permitted the high rate of emigration this year chiefly to purge the country of malcontents whose frustrations could pose long-term political problems for the Communist Party authorities.
This week 76 political prisoners in East Germany were released from prison and sent to West Germany, according to the Frankfurt-based International Society for Human Rights. Some of them included leading members of the East German peace movement, which is opposed to the presence of Soviet missiles in their country.
The Bonn government is worried that its relations not only with East Berlin but also with other Soviet Bloc capitals will suffer serious strains if the asylum seekers remain in the embassies for a long time.
West Germany's foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, is scheduled to visit Warsaw later this month and Prague in December as part of a diplomatic campaign to revive dialogue and detente between Eastern and Western Europe despite the prolonged tensions between Moscow and Washington.
But Genscher's trips could be clouded by the situation at the embassies if the refugees' plight is not resolved.
Heinrich Windelen, West Germany's minister for inter-German relations, appealed to East German authorities for a quick and humane response to the problem and warned that relations between the two German states would be affected gravely if the crisis in the embassies drags on.
"East Germany must realize that, here in West Germany, concern is growing that mutual relations must suffer serious damage if a humane solution is not found soon for those seeking asylum," Windelen said in a newspaper interview.
He urged the East German government to respect the wishes of its own people to decide what to do with their lives, particularly their desire to travel more freely. Czechoslovakia is the only country that East Germans are allowed to visit without a special visa.
Other West German officials have suggested that a successful outcome to the refugee situation would help restore the climate of cooperation that prevailed between their two states earlier this year.
The steady rapprochement between the two Germanys was stunted in September when East German leader Erich Honecker was forced to postpone a visit to West Germany because of evident Soviet dismay over the trip.