05:50 GMT23 February 2020
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    Germans are more opposed than ever to Angela Merkel's open-door migration policy, a new poll has found.

    Most Germans are in favor of strict border controls and a limit to immigration, which represents a challenge to the migration policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German newspaper Die Welt reported on Thursday.

    According to a poll carried out by Germany's Market and Social Research Initiative at the end of September, 90 percent of Germans think the country should limit the number of refugees it admits annually, and 81 percent are in favor of re-introducing controls at German borders.

    For the first time, a majority of Germans rejected the proposition that the threat of hunger and poverty should be grounds for asylum. Just 47 percent were in favor, and 53 percent against. Last year, the majority of Germans (52 percent) believed that these were legitimate grounds for asylum.

    Respondents were also asked if they agreed with the statement "Germany is a country of immigration." This year 61 percent responded affirmatively, a decrease from 65 percent of respondents in 2015.

    Between January and September this year 213,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany, a decline from 577,000 over the same period last year. The decrease, however, appears to have had little impact on the proportion of people who wanted an immediate freeze on the admission of refugees. 

    This year 69 percent were in favor of an immediate freeze on refugee admission, just three percent less than in September 2015. West Germans appeared to be more willing to accept refugees than East Germans: 67 percent of the former wanted an immediate stop, compared to 79 percent of those from the East. 

    In the East German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg, 86 percent of respondents said they wanted an immediate suspension of refugee admission.

    The survey reveals public opinion at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last month reiterated her support for open borders, criticizing the decision of Eastern European countries to close the Balkan migration route.

    "If you ask me if closing the Balkan route has solved the problem, I would say clearly, no," Merkel told German newspaper Die Zeit.

    "It (closing the borders) led to fewer refugees arriving in Germany in the weeks before the EU-Turkey agreement came into force, but there were 45,000 in Greece," Merkel said.

    For Greece, that figure of 45,000 is equivalent to 360,000 refugees relative to the German population, Merkel said, "so almost twice as much as we had in the most difficult month of November."

    Despite Merkel's convictions, a new proposal from the German Interior Ministry appears to have heeded some of Germans' concerns, perhaps with a view to the country's federal elections next autumn.

    On Sunday German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told Welt am Sonntag about a new proposal to send illegal migrants rescued in the Mediterranean back to the North African coast for their asylum claim to be processed, rather than allowing them to enter Germany first.

    A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said it was hoped that the proposal might discourage migrants from attempting the treacherous journey.

    "A lack of prospects for reaching the European coast could be one reason why migrants decide not to risk their lives and financial resources on the dangerous journey," the spokeswoman said.

    "The aim must be to deprive people-smuggling operations of business, and to protect migrants from the life-threatening crossing of the Mediterranean."


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