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Merkel backs down, agreeing to stem flow of refugees

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JULY 3, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has struck a deal on immigration that threatened to break up her coalition only four months into her new term, agreeing to build transit camps for refugees attempting to cross into Germany via Austria.

Merkel, whose ruling coalition is comprised of three parties, was on the verge of losing the Christian Social Union (CSU)—German parliament’s smallest party, but the most influential one in the country’s key state of Bavaria. The chairman of the so-called sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Horst Seehofer announced on Sunday he would resign as Germany’s interior minister if Berlin did not back stronger border control measures in the south.

“We have reached an agreement after very intense negotiations,” Seehofer announced after reportedly tense negotiations on Monday, AFP reported on Tuesday. “We now have a clear agreement how to prevent illegal immigration across the Austrian-German border in the future,” he added.

Merkel later revealed the compromise entailed setting up transit centres on the border with Austria, to hold new arrivals who had already been recorded arriving in European Union countries that are not Germany.

“I would like very much for the CDU and CSU to continue working together,” Merkel said, admitting she had made concessions to Seehofer’s demands, public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported. “Because we are a success story for Germany.” Merkel’s other coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD) are yet to agree to the deal.

Applicants rejected by Germany will have to return to their first EU country of arrival, if that country agrees to take them in. If not, the rejected applicants are expected to be returned to Austria – although the agreement on this with Germany’s southern neighbor is yet to be negotiated.

Seehofer’s key concern revolved around so-called “secondary migration.” This refers to asylum seekers who arrive in another E.U. country but then, owing to the bloc’s internal free travel, perfer to settle in Germany. The minister’s initial plan was to simply turn away asylum seekers registered elsewhere in what could have constituted a breach of E.U. law and the Geneva Convention on refugees’ rights.

Germany has welcomed more refugees than any other European nation since the height of the influx in 2015, and Merkel’s approach has made her an easy target for populists inside Germany and in neighboring countries. A collapse of the ruling coalition would encourage the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which broke into parliament in September for the first time ever. It has since risen in the polls hitting 16 percent, which places it higher that the SPD—Germany’s second largest party.


Courtesy/Source:  Newsweek