Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected renewed calls on Thursday to seal Germany’s borders amid an influx of migrants as the lower of house of parliament agreed to streamline the processing of aslyum seekers.
Merkel is facing mounting pressure from within her conservative political bloc as thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries flood into Germany each day.
The chancellor has proposed legislation aimed at cutting red tape in asylum applications, and it is now expected to be passed by the upper house of parliament at a sitting Friday.
“Closing the gates in this century of the internet is an illusion,” Merkel told parliament, hours before an EU summit on the mushrooming migration crisis.
Wars and crises “are increasingly taking place on our doorstep,” triggering mass migration, she said. “It is no exaggeration to understand this task [of taking in refugees] as a historic test of Europe.”
Merkel wants to accelerate the sorting of the 800,000 asylum seekers whom the government expects to arrive this year.
Those whose claims are deemed without merit, including people from Balkan states such as Albanians, would be deported faster while those seeking asylum from war zones such as Syrians would be given swift resettlement.
With Germany taking in far more asylum seekers than any other EU country, Merkel has launched a diplomatic drive to address the causes of the refugee crisis in conflict-hit states.
Merkel has faced a series of stormy meetings with members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after she refused to place an upper limit on the numbers of asylum seekers entering the nation and refused to close the country’s borders.
Underlining concerns among voters about the refugee crisis, support for the CDU and its Bavarian-based allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), slumped to 38 per cent this week, its lowest level since the 2013 election, according to two opinion polls.
One of the leading critics of Merkel’s refugee policy, Bavarian state Premier and CSU leader Horst Seehofer, lashed out at Merkel Thursday, attacking her “words of warmth” to the incoming migrants and demanding she send out a global message that Germany would not take any more.
The chancellor should tell the world “that even for a wealthy nation like Germany, immigration has limits and we can’t absorb all comers,” Seehofer said.
He told his state assembly in Munich that he held the chancellor responsible for both the disarray in towns that are running short of space to house the migrants and the prospect of ethnic tensions.
“If the federal government does nothing while we face the actual effects at the scene, the federal government will be to blame for all the ramifications now and in the future,” he said as Merkel spoke.
Merkel is to travel Sunday to Turkey, which borders Syria and is housing an estimated 2 million Syrian refugees. She said her meetings there would focus on the refugee crisis as well as terrorism and human rights.
Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, should help stem the influx of refugees into Europe by stabilizing Syria, Merkel said in her parliamentary address.
“We need a political dialogue which includes Russia and all regional actors,” Merkel said.
However, she also said that the EU needed to take action to better control its outer borders.