Migration fight shakes German govt as Merkel, ally face off

Ivan Schwartz
June 19, 2018

He wants Germany to send back migrants who have already registered in other European Union countries.

On Sunday, a government spokesman said Merkel was seeking talks with some European Union members on migrant policy before the leaders summit at the end of the month although denied a report in Bild that she was trying to set up a special summit.

"But we stick to our position that should the immediate rejection at the border not be possible, I would immediately order the police that people who either have prohibition of entry or prohibition of stay should be immediately turned away at the border", he said.

The spat over immigration has laid bare the deep tensions in a fractious German coalition government that took office only in March, after almost six months of post-election haggling, and exposed the limits of Ms Merkel's powers.

The poor showing also set off an internal power struggle: Seehofer salvaged his job as party leader but gave up the Bavarian governor's job to younger rival Markus Soeder.

Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: "It is not in the CSU's interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition". Still, polls suggest that its absolute majority in the Bavarian state legislature is in danger in the October 14 state election - and it is being challenged on the right by the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.

He said he had only recently learnt that migrants who had already been denied asylum by Germany or been issued re-entry bans were still being allowed back in.

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In Munich, Seehofer said his party would be happy to see European or bilateral solutions this month that "achieve the same that we can achieve by turning people back at the border".

But he was long left waiting for a response from Berlin as Merkel, weakened by poor September election results, was occupied by half a year of arduous coalition talks.

Germany's migration row mirrors squalls seen across Europe since Merkel's decision in 2015 to open Germany's borders to more than a million migrants fleeing wars in the Middle East, transforming the demographic landscape nearly overnight. Seehofer - then the governor of Bavaria, where most migrants first entered Germany - became a leading critic of her welcoming approach.

President Trump, who has had a frosty relationship with Merkel since taking office, took to Twitter Monday to declare that Germans "are turning against their leadership".

Merkel must now attempt to forge a deal by an EU summit on Thursday and Friday next week, and report back to her Christian Democratic Union on July 1.

Federal Interior Ministry data shows the number of new arrivals in Germany seeking asylum fell 33% on the year to 186,000 in 2017, down from 280,000 the previous year and 890,000 in 2015, at the peak of the migrant crisis.

"Germany also has a head of government", he said of Merkel, saying it was she who was "responsible before her people and her parliament".

Other reports by GizPress

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