Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Merkel: Germany needs to reduce number of refugees

  • Merkel: "Even a strong country like Germany is on the long term is overstrained by such a large number of refugees." (Photo: CDU)

German chancellor Angela Merkel tried on Monday (14 December) to maintain her authority and reconcile her migration policy with her own party's demands for change.



In a speech to the Christian-Democrat Union's (CDU) congress in Karlsruhe, she said she wants to "noticeably reduce the number of refugees" coming to Germany, but she stopped short from mentioning an "upper limit" on the number of migrants.

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"Even a strong country like Germany is in the long term overstrained by such a large number of refugees," Merkel said.

A curb in Germany's refugee policy is "in Germany's and Europe's interest, and in the interest of refugees," she added.

Her words had been agreed on Sunday ahead of the congress, to avoid a public row between herself and party ranks more hostile to large numbers of refugees being welcomed in Germany.

Last week, German authorities said that 965,000 people have been registered as asylum seekers so far this year. According to estimates made in August, Germany expected around 800,000 for the whole year.

'Practical test'

On Sunday, the leader of the CDU youth branch Paul Ziemiak said that not setting a cap on the number of refugees would be "careless" because "Germany's possibilities are finite".

His words echoed declarations from other party officials as well as a majority of German public opinion.

"There are objective limits" to what Germany can do in terms of Kindergarten, apartments and languages courses, said Reiner Haseloff, the minister-president of the Land of Saxe-Anhalt.

According to an opinion poll published over the weekend by Bild, the tabloid newspaper that has supported Merkel's refugee policy, 62 percent of Germans are now in favour of an "upper limit" on the number of refugees.

In her speech, Merkel defended once again her action.

Receiving all the refugees coming to Germany was "no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative," she told party delegates.

"Germany is a strong country," Merkel added. "We'll make it, for Germany and for Europe," she said, using once again the motto - "Wir schaffen das" - she used several time since August.

The chancellor also insisted that the refugee crisis is not only a challenge for Germany, but "a practical test for Europe," she said.

"I am sure it will pass it. Even when what we do is endlessly exhausting," she assured.

The chancellor explained that the situation will improve only if the EU can take common measures at all levels of the migration crisis.

She mentioned the strengthening of EU borders and the setting up of hotspots in Italy and Greece; the fight against root causes of migration, in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan; the humanitarian and development aid; and cooperation with Turkey.

Schengen is 'vital'

While Germany has reintroduced border controls in the Autumn to face the crisis, Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to the Schengen free-travel area.

No country is as dependent on Schengen as Germany," she said adding that the area was "of vital importance" for the country.

Looking at the events of recent months, from the Paris attacks in January and November to the migrant crisis, from the German Wings disaster in March to the continuing war in Ukraine or the Greek crisis, Merkel said the year has been "unbelievable".

"Such an intensity, such a succession of events, like I had never experienced," the chancellor said.

At the end of her 1-hour long speech, criticised but still unchallenged, Merkel received a standing ovation for several minutes.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

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