Merkel to hold course on refugee policy

Sunday's suicide bombing in Ansbach could prove to be as big a challenge to Angela Merkel's refugee policy as the Cologne attacks on New Year's Eve. [European Parliament]

In a TV appearance on Wednesday (7 October), Angela Merkel said that she would continue with her current refugee policy, despite being in conflict with the right-wing of her coalition government. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“Germany is a country that warmly welcomes refugees,” said Merkel on the “Anne Will” talk show.

“We cannot close the borders. Building fences would just make people find a way around them,” she stressed.

Instead, she is confident that Europe as a whole will find a fair way to disperse refugees. She also pledged to divert development funds toward the conflict zones from where most refugees have fled.

The Chancellor continued in the confident manner she has displayed since the beginning of the crisis, saying, “We can succeed. Of this I have no doubt.”

Regarding the speculation that she could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (9 October), Merkel reacted rather tetchily. “This topic depresses me.” Clearly, she has more pressing issues on her mind.

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

Facing criticism from the right, Merkel made her position clear, promising that she would not participate in a “let us see who can be the most unfriendly toward refugees so they won’t come here” contest. Without a doubt, statements like these are addressed at those who want to deter refugees from trying to enter Germany, like her coalition partner, Horst Seehofer.

Internal pressure on the increase

Seehofer, the Minister-President of Bavaria, has increased pressure on Merkel in the last few days. On Wednesday (7 October), he warned of “self-defence” should the German government not take steps to limit the number of refugees.

He also announced that on Friday (9 October), his cabinet will discuss “capacity limitation” measures. Transit zones are one of the options that could be implemented. In order to prevent a disproportionate number of refugees ending up in Bavaria, better infrastructure at train hubs is necessary.

Gerda Hasselfeldt, deputy chairperson of the CDU/CSU group, told the Rheinischen Post that Peter Altmaier’s appointment as refugee coordinator would not help the situation.

The SPD’s general secretary, Yasmin Fahimi, accused Merkel of not adequately responding to the crisis.

Given the CSU’s position, and the welcoming stance of the Chancellor, Fahimi believes that the ruling parties are showing “political bipolarity that could hardly be more extreme.”

Letter of exasperation

In a letter sent to Merkel yesterday, 34 CDU politicians expressed their concerns regarding the direction of refugee policy. In the letter, they had written that “the current ‘open borders policy’ is neither in line with European nor German law, yet it is in accordance with the CDU programme.”

A large proportion of CDU members and voters non longer feel represented by their party, especially in terms of its approach toward refugee policy. The 34 signatories called for effective measures to be taken to reduce the number of refugees.

>>Read: The refugee crisis: Four steps to be taken

The 34 come from Berlin, Hesse, Saxony, Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein. They do not count any members of the Bundestag, or other notable party members, among their ranks.

Merkel acknowledged that she had received and read the letter, admitting that the authors were indeed party members.

Rising refugee numbers

In September alone, 164,000 asylum seekers were registered in Germany. If this trend were to continue until the end of the year, then the official forecast estimates that Germany will have welcomed 800,000 refugees in the calendar year.

Frank-Jürgen Weise, head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), has already pointed out that there are thousands of unregistered people in Germany. This means that the number of new entrants for September could in fact be over the 200,000 mark.

For the first nine months of the year, 303,443 people submitted asylum applications.

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