Financial Times

German coalition strains show as minister breaks ranks on migrants

by Stefan Wagstyl ­

September 21, 2015 | 8:03 pm
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Germany’s coalition government has split publicly over how to respond to Europe’s migrant crisis after its conservative interior minister proposed sending back refugees to countries
bordering their war­torn homelands.

Thomas de Maiziere, whose handling of a massive influx of asylum seekers has prompted widespread domestic criticism, suggested that the EU should set an overall cap beyond
which refugees would be sent back to the region of origin. But the idea was swiftly shot down by social democrat deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel as unconstitutional and contrary to
government policy.

The split came as John Kerry, US secretary of state, announced in Berlin that the US would raise to 100,000, from 70,000 currently, the number of worldwide refugees it accepts
annually by 2017. Most of the additional number would be from Syria.

Asked after talks on the issue with German foreign minister Frank­Walter Steinmeier why the US would not take more of the hundreds of thousands pouring into Europe, Mr Kerry
blamed security screening requirements and lack of funds approved by Congress.

The coalition spat highlighted German leaders’ struggle to balance chancellor Angela Merkel’s pledge to welcome more refugees than ever before, with the country’s capacity to cope
with the tens of thousands arriving at its frontiers every week. Berlin expects to receive 1m asylum seekers in 2015.

Last week Germany reimposed controls at its southern border and the head of its refugee and migrants agency resigned. Berlin will tomorrow push other EU countries ­ some against
their will ­ to share out 160,000 asylum­seekers currently in Greece and Italy.

Mr de Maizière, who is a close ally of Ms Merkel, called for an EU­wide refugee quota and argued that asylum seekers arriving after the limits were reached could be sent back to their
“home regions”.

The minister told Spiegel magazine: “We cannot take all the people from crisis areas and all those fleeing poverty.”

But Mr Gabriel said: “I did not understand [Mr de Maizière’s message] because it is the opposite of the chancellor has rightly said: that is, that whoever comes to Germany and applies
for asylum needs to be treated fairly.”

He added that it was “no solution” to introduce quotas and was “contrary to the German constitution”.

By Stefan Wagstyl ­

by Stefan Wagstyl ­

September 21, 2015 | 8:03 pm
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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