Oct. 10 (UPI) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Sunday to back a limit on refugees entering the country as part of a concession with an ally conservative party to form a coalition government.
Merkel agreed to limit the number of refugees per year to 200,000, as opposed to the past policy which allowed anyone who made it to the German border, resulting in more than 1 million refugees in 2015 and 2016, mostly from North Africa and Syria.
The German leader previously refused to back a refugee limit, but had to change her position after far right parties gained seats during last month’s election, reported the New York Times. The political shift caused Merkel’s Christian Democrats to make a deal with the Christian Social Union, whose leader had been pushing for a refugee limit.
“We reached a compromise that I consider to be a very good basis to begin discussions with the Free Democrats and the Greens,” Merkel said Monday. “Germany needs a stable government and the prerequisite for this was a common negotiating position.”
But Simone Peter, co-leader of the Green party, said the limit was too restrictive.
“When you throw together asylum seekers, refugee contingents, resettlement programs and family members joining refugees all in one pot, and then set a limit of 200,000, one group will be thrown under the bus,” Peter said. “I would like to see how that can go along with humanitarian immigration.”
There is also some question about the legality of such a limit, because under European Union law, asylum seekers can’t be turned away.
“We have common EU asylum policies and regulations that predetermine how people who come asking for protection as refugees must be treated,” Thomas Giegerich, professor for European, international and public law at the University of Saarland, told DW.
“EU law does not include a migration cap for people in need of protection,” he added. “If someone comes from a country in the throes of civil war and it’s clear that they cannot go back there, they have the right to be protected and must not be turned away.”
However, refugee applications into Germany have fallen by more than 50 percent this year after the drastic rise in 2015 and 2016. During the first eight months of 2017, fewer than 124,000 people have applied for asylum, in part because of a deal the EU made last year with Turkey, which agreed to take in more migrants.