Merkel defends refugee policy, vows action on ‘darknet’ after terror attacks

Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk [James Crisp/Flickr]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today (28 July) that terrorists threatened Germany’s readiness to take in refugees but her government would maintain its policy towards asylum seekers.

Merkel was speaking after a spate of recent terror attacks in the south of the country, which caused her to interrupt her vacation.

“The terrorists want to make us lose sight of what is important to us, break down our cohesion and sense of community as well as inhibiting our way of life, our openness and our willingness take in people who are in need,” she told a news conference.

“They see hatred and fear between cultures and they see hatred and fear between religions. We stand decisively against that,” she added.

Merkel fended off criticism that the violent episodes could sway her policy of accepting refugees, although two of the attacks were carried out by asylum seekers in the Bavarian cities of Würzburg and Ansbach.

“We’ll manage it,” the German chancellor said, repeating a phrase – ‘wir shaffen das’ –  she famously used last August about her commitment to taking in refugees.

“We’ll manage it and we’ve already managed a lot in the last 11 months,” she told reporters in Berlin.

More than one million asylum seekers registered in Germany in 2015. More than a third (35%) of all asylum applications in the EU last year were filed in Germany.

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A 27-year-old Syrian man who had been denied asylum in Germany a year ago died on Sunday (24 July) when a bomb he was carrying exploded outside a music festival in Ansbach, Germany, a Bavarian state official told a news conference, according to a website.

Merkel also presented a nine-point plan to defend the country against future terrorist attacks.

The plan includes measures to make it easier to carry out deportations and a system to warn authorities about radicalised people.

Merkel is preparing a plan that would allow the German military to deploy in the country in case of a large terrorist attack. The German constitution forbids the military from deploying domestically.

The chancellor announced that she wants to speed up plans to build a new government office responsible for decrypting internet communication.

“We have to take into consideration the questions of encryption. Today people talk about the darknet,” Merkel said.

The 18-year-old shooter who killed nine people on 22 July in Munich bought his gun on the darknet, a network of encrypted parts of the internet that users can access anonymously.

Merkel also praised the German government’s newly approved plans to require identification from anyone purchasing prepaid SIM cards for mobile phones and the EU law to collect and save flight passengers’ personal data that was passed earlier this year. Data protection laws  are particularly sensitive in Germany, where Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance caused a wave of public outrage.

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Terrorism is not new to Europe, despite the recent Islamic State inspired attacks that have rocked France and Germany, Alexander Ritzmann has said. The terror and radicalisation expert said it was vital that the outrages did not lead to policy decisions confusing migration with terrorism ahead of crunch elections in Germany and France next year.

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