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    Migrants are escorted by German police to a registration centre, after crossing the Austrian-German border in Wegscheid near Passau, Germany, November 1, 2015

    Germany Doubles Border Rejections Amid Ongoing Migrant Crisis

    © REUTERS / Michael Dalder
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    The number of migrants stopped at Germany's borders has doubled, with nearly 20,000 being turned away in 2016. Voluntarily deportations have also massively increased. This comes amid growing pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel's government over her immigration policy, ahead of the upcoming German 2017 election.

    In the whole of 2015, 8,913 migrants were stopped from entering Germany. This was back when Chancellor Angela Merkel was the celebrated darling of Europe, thanks in part to her compassion towards migrants and refugees. 

    Germany announced that all Syrian asylum seekers were welcome to remain in Germany, suspending a 1990 protocol, which states that refugees should seek asylum in the first European country in which they set foot.

    Her humanitarian gesture was summed up by Merkel's phrase "Wir schaffen das" or "We can manage it."

    It now seems that many of her compatriots disagree.

    Merkel's initial optimism and hope that other EU countries would follow suit has since melted away.

    ​In the ashes, the insidious growth of anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalist populism has grown. It's a phenomenon that has dominated many parts of the world in 2016, and Germany is by no means immune.

    After flinging open the door, and more than 1.1 million refugees later, Germany is back-pedaling: fast. 

    According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, from January until the end of November 2016, 19,720 people were stopped from entering the country,more than double 2015's figure.

    Afghan asylum seekers were turned back the most frequently, with 3,695 people affected in 2016 so far. 2,142 Syrians, 1,794 Iraqis and 1,237 Nigerians have also been stopped from entering Germany.

    On top of this, around 55,000 migrants left Germany voluntarily last year, returning to their countries of origin. The largest number of those returning were from west Balkan states.

    Politics is, in part, behind this significant policy shift.

    Migrants arrive at the first registration point for asylum seekers in Erding near Munich, southern Germany, on November 15, 2016
    © AFP 2018 / Christof Stache
    Migrants arrive at the first registration point for asylum seekers in Erding near Munich, southern Germany, on November 15, 2016

    Germany will hold its election in autumn 2017. Angela Merkel has already declared that she will run for her fourth term, yet her popularity has been severely dented by the perception that her open-door immigration policy was a mistake.

    ​She has already seen a snapshot of this voter discontent in September 2016. Her center-right CDU party was hit with its worst-ever result in Berlin: a 17.6% share of the vote.

    "If I could, I would turn back time for many, many years, to prepare better," Mrs. Merkel conceded.

    The consequences of her lack of preparation are also social and cultural.

    Germany has struggled to integrate some of the refugees and migrants who have arrived from the Middle East and North Africa. Issues such as women's rights have been polarizing.

    Women hold up placards that read Mrs. Merkel: Where are you? What are you saying? This worries us! during a protest in front of the Cologne Cathedral, Germany, January 5, 2016. Germans have been deeply shocked by a series of attacks, assaults, and other crimes committed by asylum-seekers taking advantage of Merkel's open-door immigration policy.
    © REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay
    Women hold up placards that read "Mrs. Merkel: Where are you? What are you saying? This worries us!" during a protest in front of the Cologne Cathedral, Germany, January 5, 2016. Germans have been deeply shocked by a series of attacks, assaults, and other crimes committed by asylum-seekers taking advantage of Merkel's open-door immigration policy.

    Germany's tougher asylum laws were in response to the public outcry after a series of sex attacks on women allegedly by North African and Middle-Eastern migrants at New Year celebrations in Cologne, and other cities.

    Although such high-profile negative attention focused on only a small minority of migrants, the public fall-out is ongoing.

    Merkel's domestic spokesman has indicated that Germany intends to continue to manage border checks past an EU deadline of February 2017.

    ​Stephan Mayer, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper:

    "I am convinced that border controls need to be urgently extended beyond February 2017 also.

    "If the [EU] commission does not approve the extension, for which I have no understanding, the federal government must continue its own border controls on the Bavarian-Austrian border."

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    Tags:
    open door policy, border controls, migrant crisis, refugees, Berlin truck attack, German federal election 2017, Angela Merkel, Germany, Europe
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