Merkel’s ‘open door policy’ under serious threat

Football may not be enough to preserve Algerian-German ties, with Berlin suggesting aid could be cut if steps are not taken to readmit rejected asylum seekers. [Filipe Castilhos/Flickr]

As Germany continues to grapple wth the refugee crisis, Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has urged countries of origin to take back rejected asylum seekers, or have their development aid cut. Other senior figures have called for a limit on numbers to be introduced. EURACTIV Germany reports. 

The Social Democratic Party of Germany’s chief, Sigmar Gabriel, has increased pressure on North African countries, telling German television that they should take back any of their citizens that “have no right to asylum with us”. “It’s not fair that these countries take the money but not their own people,” he added.

Berlin wants to closely monitor the number of refugees coming from Algeria and Morocco and to clarify the status of safe countries of origin.

Greens co-chair Cem Özdemir rejected Gabriel’s stance on the matter, and called for Germany and other member states to do more to improve the democratic and economic situation of North Africa. He also called for a “North African conference” to be set up.

In terms of limiting the number of refugees, Gabriel told German television that “this year, we have to limit the numbers of refugees entering the country, because we are not going to be able to integrate them otherwise”. Above all, he emphasised the need to better secure the EU’s external borders, in order to put an end to a “chaotic form of immigration”.

>>Read: Austria ‘temporarily’ suspends Schengen

The Vice-Chancellor denied that the border with Austria would be shut, as internal closures have so far proved to be ineffective in limiting numbers.  Additionally, such a step would have knock-on effects for the economy.

Readmission agreements needed

The new general secretary of the SPD, Katarina Barley, suggested that Germany needs water-tight readmission agreements with Algeria and Morocco. Such an agreement already exists with Algeria, but it has proven to be ineffective.

She referred to the deals that have been made with countries of the Western Balkans, where the number of refugees has fallen. Barley urged for similar agreements to be struck with Algeria and Morocco.

>>Read: Gerd Müller: Withholding knowledge is ‘akin to murder’

She also highlighted the need for sanctions to be put in place for countries that refuse to readmit their nationals.

Pull up the drawbridge

The former Minister President of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, told Süddeutsche Zeitung today (18 January) that the German-Austrian border should be shut completely, as it is the “only way” to convince other member states to come together and address the crisis in unison. The former Christian Social Union (CSU) chairman issued Chancellor Angela Merkel with an ultimatum, giving her until the “end of March at the latest” to announce the end of her so-called open-door policy.

Saxony’s Minister President Stanislas Tillich (CDU) added his voice to the chorus that is now calling for a limitation on refugee numbers. “We cannot cope again with the numbers we saw in 2015,” he told Die Welt today. Tillich added that, if necessary, Germany should turn refugees away at the border. “If the EU cannot protect the external borders, then Germany should protect its own,” he warned.

>>Read: Berlin warns of Paris-style attacks in Germany

On Sunday (17 September), Gabriel said that the number of refugees entering the country should be limited until the spring, after which an “effective agreement” with Turkey, the main transit country, should be struck.

Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos accused Turkey of colluding with the illegal people smugglers, telling Süddeutsche Zeitung that, “I have severe concerns that the Turkish people smugglers have had support from the authorities.” He added that, “we have evidence”.

People-trafficking is big business and is akin to the “slave trade”. Pavlopoulos, who is expected in Berlin today, praised Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis, labelling it as “brave”.

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