Ger­many must act now to stop re-run of refugee cri­sis, Merkel ri­val says

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ger­many needs to take ac­tion now to pre­vent a re-run of 2015, when some 890,000 mi­grants ar­rived in the coun­try, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s So­cial Demo­crat chal­lenger for a Septem­ber elec­tion told Reuters yes­ter­day.

In Septem­ber 2015, Merkel threw open Ger­many’s borders to thou­sands of mi­grants to avoid a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter - a move that later hit her pop­u­lar­ity and boosted the anti-im­mi­grant Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD), though her con­ser­va­tives have since re­cov­ered and sup­port for the AfD has dropped. Martin Schulz, whose So­cial Democrats (SPD) are lag­ging far be­hind Merkel in the polls ahead of a Sept. 24 elec­tion, warned against a re­peat sce­nario af­ter more than 93,000 mainly sub-Sa­ha­ran African and Bangladeshi mi­grants have ar­rived by boat in south­ern Italy so far in 2017, up 17 per­cent on the same pe­riod last year.

“The num­bers in Italy are wor­ry­ing thou­sands per day,” he said in an in­ter­view in the west­ern Ger­man city of Aachen. “If we don’t want a re­peat of what we ex­pe­ri­enced in 2015 we need to take ac­tion now as the Ital­ians are reaching their limit in terms of what they can do.” Other Eu­ro­pean Union coun­tries need to help Italy, such as by tak­ing in refugees, he added.

Lo­gis­ti­cal help

Schulz said he had spo­ken to Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion chief JeanClaude Juncker yes­ter­day about what fi­nan­cial or lo­gis­ti­cal help Brus­sels might be able to of­fer coun­tries pre­pared to take in refugees and said he would speak to both the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment and the Com­mis­sion about this dur­ing the week. In an in­ter­view with the Bild am Son­ntag news­pa­per, Schulz said the sit­u­a­tion was “highly ex­plo­sive” and sug­gested he wanted to turn it into an elec­tion cam­paign is­sue, say­ing: “Those who play for time and try to ig­nore the topic un­til the elec­tion are act­ing in a very cyn­i­cal way.”

Mi­grant ar­rivals in Ger­many have been far lower this year than in the pre­vi­ous two years, with data from the In­te­rior Min­istry show­ing the num­ber of new ar­rivals seek­ing asy­lum fell to 90,389 in the first half of 2017, about half as many as in the year-ear­lier pe­riod. Last year, some 280,000 mi­grants ar­rived in Ger­many - a sharp drop com­pared with 2015 - and the refugee is­sue has not yet played a ma­jor role in the elec­tion cam­paign. —Reuters The lat­est Em­nid poll showed Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives on 38 per­cent and the SPD on 25 per­cent. Horst See­hofer, leader of the Chris­tian So­cial Union (CSU) - the Bavar­ian sis­ter party to Merkel’s Chris­tian Democrats (CDU) told the Welt am Son­ntag news­pa­per the sit­u­a­tion was calm now but added: “We all know that the wave of mi­grants will con­tinue.” The CSU, which takes a tougher tone on mi­grants than Merkel’s CDU, has long called for an up­per limit on the num­bers ar­riv­ing and See­hofer yes­ter­day re­peated his call for a cap of 200,000 per year. Merkel has re­jected a cap.

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