German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to answer questions about her migration policy in a televised interview Friday night, as a new poll showed that the majority of Germans were upset with her open-arms approach to refugees.
The interview, titled “What now, Mrs Merkel?”, will feature questions submitted by viewers and will touch on the government’s controversial application of the Dublin Regulation.
Under this rule, migrants’ asylum applications should be processed in the European Union country in which they first set foot.
As tens of thousands of desperate refugees began streaming toward Germany from other EU countries in August, Merkel suspended the procedure for Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war.
The move earned her international praise, but unease among Germans has grown and her liberal approach has sparked tensions in her governing coalition, especially among her conservative Bavarian allies.
This week her government reversed course, with the Interior Ministry saying Germany is again reserving the right to send refugees back to the first EU country in which they registered.
Critics have accused Merkel of sudden switches in course and poor management of the crisis. Her aides admit they did not know of the October 21 rule change by the Interior Ministry. But spokesmen later downplayed the change, arguing it was mainly technical.
Ahead of the live interview at 7:20 pm (1820 GMT), public broadcaster ZDF revealed in a poll that 52 per cent of Germans are opposed to Merkel’s refugee policy, while 43 per cent agreed with her approach.
Earlier Friday, Merkel defended her government’s decision to toughen its refugee rules, saying the rule change was intended to achieve fair distribution in Europe.
“The countries at the outer borders of the EU should not have to bear more than their share of the burden, but they should also not bear less than their fair share,” she said, noting that countries of first landfall were registering migrants “too rarely at the moment.”
The vast majority of asylum seekers arriving in Germany were never registered in the first EU country, which means German authorities will have a tough time determining where to send them to.
Merkel acknowledged the situation in her comments Friday, saying only a tiny number of people would potentially be liable to deportation.
“The fraction of those cases is small compared to the overall numbers arriving,” she said.