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27/09/2016

Merkel continues to take hits from own party on refugee policy

Justice & Home Affairs

Merkel continues to take hits from own party on refugee policy

The dispute over how to handle the refugee crisis rages on, as 100 of Angela Merkel’s own party criticised her approach. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

The German Chancellor’s own party continue to break rank, with poll numbers dropping even more. The Christian Democrat Union (CDU) slipped to its lowest position all year, when it polled at 38% in data published on Wednesday (14 October).

>>LIVE: EU summit on migration, Brexit

According to the Bild newspaper, more than 120 CDU politicians have called upon Merkel to close the borders to refugees that originate from so-called ‘safe countries’.

The border closure “should be implemented so long as the external Schengen borders are effectively open while other Schengen countries fail to fulfil their obligations under European law.” The newspaper was quoting from a letter penned to Merkel by disenchanted members of her party, which in the past week has been signed by 34 CDU politicians.

At a regional CDU congress in North Saxony on Wednesday evening (14 October), Merkel was sharply criticised and accused of failure. One of the 1,000 participants said that the German people cannot keep being told “we can do it” by the Chancellor.

>> Read: Berlin wants unity at EU refugee summit

Another spoke of a looming “national catastrophe” should the influx not be halted. On one banner the following slogan was spotted: “Stop the refugee crisis! German culture + values. Dethrone Merkel!”

Merkel goes on the defensive

At the beginning of the meeting, Merkel defended her refugee policy. The Chancellor reiterated the fact that every person has a right to asylum and protection from civil war and persecution. People who want to stay in Germany must be offered the prospects to achieve this wish, while at the same time, those who cannot should be returned to their homelands.

The vote today (15 October) regarding the new package of asylum measures is unlikely to heal any internal divisions in the ruling coalition. It is expected that the CDU, CSU and SPD will pass the bill with a large majority though.

>> Read: PEGIDA defiant amid confusion over German asylum figures

In the background, lurks the question about whether and by what means the number of arrivals will be limited. It remains to be seen what effect the predicted drop-off in numbers due to the winter months will have.

New package, new results?

In September, Merkel agreed upon the asylum package with the heads of the German regions. The measures are intended to accelerate the asylum procedure and to allow the local authorities to get more money to deal with the influx, by providing better facilities and taking steps to increase the efficacy of integration with the local community. Additionally though, the package is designed to curtail the number of asylum applications coming from the Western Balkans, by classifying those countries as ‘safe countries’.

>> Read: Xenophobia on the increase in Austria

The ruling parties continue to wrangle about how refugees can be reliably registered and how to dismiss unauthorised applications more efficiently. The CDU’s idea of creating transit zones on the German border has been completely rejected by the SPD’s leadership, a move that its members thoroughly welcomed.

CSU politician Hans-Peter Uhl reportedly warned Merkel about being “voted out of government,” said Wolfgang Bosbach, the CDU’s interior affairs expert. Uhl cited dissatisfaction among key voters and declining poll numbers. He also demanded that the government maintain the confidence of the German people.

This article appeared on EurActiv Germany.