European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI
Germany to ditch Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy
Telegraph – Olaf Scholz will set tighter border controls to crack down on asylum seekers after local governments complained they were overwhelmed
Berlin’s left-wing government is preparing to ditch the liberal refugee policies that marked the Merkel era and crack down on asylum seekersOlaf Scholz, the German chancellor, announced a plan on Wednesday that will see Germany introduce tighter controls on all nine of its borders while pushing for asylum centres on the edge of the EU.“The big task we face is to manage irregular migration and, of course, to limit it,” Mr Scholz said at the end of a marathon summit with local leaders.
For months, local governments have been complaining that they have been left in the cold by the federal government as they struggle with housing refugees and providing schooling for their children.Arrivals have risen sharply since the start of the year, with over 100,000 asylum applications made so far, a number not seen since 2015 when Angela Merkel famously opened Germany’s doors to Syrians fleeing their country’s devastating civil war.This time around though the response has been very different.
While Ms Merkel rallied the German public with her call of “wir schaffen das” (We can do it) – leading to a groundswell of donations and volunteer work – the surge in arrivals this time has been overshadowed by the Ukraine war.At Wednesday’s summit, while local leaders were calling first and foremost for money, Mr Scholz made clear that he was not prepared to meet their financial demands.
He offered a billion euros – a figure local leaders later described as “a drop in the ocean” – but made clear that his priority was to slow the flow of migration.Most controversially, he has backed building asylum centres on the EU’s external borders, a move that would prevent many refugees from being able to make their case to German authorities.Human rights groups have described the proposal as “shocking” and a “human rights disaster”, claiming that the proposed centres would in effect be prisons.
But, whereas NGOs could once count on the backing of the Green party, even they have diluted their once staunch support of refugee rights.Now a junior partner in Mr Scholz’s coalition, the Greens have given clear signals in recent days that they want asylum applications to be handled before people reach Germany.“We need to know at the European border who is arriving, where people are coming from and what their probability of staying is,” Green MP and minister for agriculture Cem Özdemir said this week.
Berlin has also committed itself to intensifying controls at domestic borders.Whereas controls are currently focused on the Austrian border, where most migrants have arrived in recent years, spot checks could now be carried out even as far north as Denmark.The text of Wednesday’s agreement states that: “Due to the current dynamics of the situation, dragnet searches will be carried out at all German land borders.”Mr Scholz has also trumpeted what he calls “a new type of migration partnership” that will see Germany accept qualified migrants from developing countries on the condition that they take back citizens who are living illegally in Germany.
The German public appears to have little appetite for another year of mass refugee arrivals.Last year, Germany welcomed roughly a million Ukrainians fleeing the war, adding to the already acute pressure on the country’s housing market.Meanwhile, the goodwill that swept the country in 2015 was followed by an uptick in terrorism and violent crime.In the aftermath of Ms Merkels’ decision to open the borders, the AfD became the first far-right party to win seats in a German parliament since the Nazi era. The country has also struggled, in the years since, to deport people who came among the Syrians but had no right to stay.