Merkel on the rack for her open door pol­icy

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Ja­son Groves Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

AN­GELA Merkel was last night fac­ing a fierce back­lash over her ‘open door’ mi­gra­tion pol­icy that al­lowed more than a mil­lion refugees into Ger­many last year.

As police launched a fran­tic man­hunt for the driver of the truck that ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, op­po­nents wasted no time in lay­ing the po­lit­i­cal blame for the car­nage at Mrs Merkel’s door.

While it is not yet known if the driver was a mi­grant, the far-Right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party said it held the Chan­cel­lor ‘per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for what had hap­pened’.

Even al­lies con­ceded the at­tack could de­rail Mrs Merkel’s cam­paign for next year’s elec­tion and take the de­bate about her mi­gra­tion pol­icy to a ‘new di­men­sion’.

Mrs Merkel ac­knowl­edged it would be ‘par­tic­u­larly sick­en­ing’ if it turned out the atroc­ity was car­ried out by a refugee who took ad­van­tage of Ger­many’s gen­eros­ity.

Vis­it­ing the scene in Berlin, she said: ‘This is a very dif­fi­cult day. I, like mil­lions of Ger­mans, am out­raged, shocked and deeply sad­dened by what hap­pened.

‘There is a lot we still don’t know about this act but we must as­sume it was an act of ter­ror­ism. I know that it would be es­pe­cially hard for us to bear if some­one who had asked for asy­lum turned out to have done this. It would be par­tic­u­larly sick­en­ing for the many Ger­mans who daily work to help refugees and for those who re­ally do need our shel­ter.’

Last night there were signs the Berlin at­tack could have reper­cus­sions for EU bor­der pol­icy. Robert Fico, Slo­vakia’s prime min­is­ter, said: ‘The cup of pa­tience is be­gin­ning to spill over and Europe’s pub­lic will right­fully ex­pect rather stronger (anti-mi­gra­tion) mea­sures.’ Pol­ish premier Beata Szydlo said: ‘Europe must take ef­fec­tive ac­tion to pro­tect its cit­i­zens.’

John Bolton, who is tipped to be Don­ald Trump’s deputy sec­re­tary of state, said Mrs Merkel had ex­posed Ger­many and other coun­tries ‘to the risk of ter­ror­ism’.

Anti-im­mi­gra­tion politi­cians across Europe seized on the cri­sis. Ma­rine Le Pen, of France’s far-Right Na­tional Front, claimed it was time to end the ar­rival of refugees when ‘we know that Is­lamist ter­ror­ists are in­volved’ in the Berlin at­tack.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch far-Right Party for Free­dom, posted a mocked-up photo on­line of Mrs Merkel with blood on her hands and face.

Mrs Merkel was al­ready un­der pres­sure over a pol­icy many of her own sup­port­ers now ac­cept was a dis­as­ter. In the sum­mer of 2015, she threw open Ger­many’s bor­ders, say­ing there were ‘no lim­its’ on the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers the coun­try would take. The move came de­spite fears the Is­lamic State ter­ror group would use the mi­grant cri­sis to flood Europe with ex­trem­ists. Con­trols were brought back two months later, but the pol­icy is thought to have led to more than one mil­lion mi­grants en­ter­ing Ger­many last year.

Crit­ics claim the in­flux fu­elled a wave of sex at­tacks in Cologne and other cities. Ear­lier this month a 17-year-old Afghan was ar­rested for the rape and mur­der of a 19-year-old med­i­cal stu­dent in Freiburg.

Vot­ers an­gered by the mi­grant row pun­ished Mrs Merkel in re­gional elec­tions in Septem­ber. Af­ter­wards, the Chan­cel­lor said: ‘If I could, I would turn back time by many, many years.’

Mrs Merkel re­mains the favourite to win in next year’s gen­eral elec­tion as she seeks a fourth term in of­fice. But the AfD party, which has cam­paigned against im­mi­gra­tion, made it clear it would seek to ex­ploit pub­lic anger over the Berlin at­tack.

Mar­cus Pret­zell, a prom­i­nent party mem­ber, de­scribed the Berlin vic­tims as ‘Merkel’s dead’. Party chair­man Frauke Petry said Ger­many was ‘no longer safe’, adding: ‘We can­not be un­der any il­lu­sion. The mi­lieu in which such crimes are able to thrive has been im­ported here sys­tem­at­i­cally over the past one and a half years.’

Stephan Mayer, Ger­many’s home af­fairs spokesman and a key ally of Mrs Merkel, said it was ‘too early’ to know if the at­tacker ex­ploited the ‘open door’ pol­icy. But he ad­mit­ted there was an ‘un­con­trolled and un­reg­is­tered’ in­flux of refugees last year, adding: ‘This was a pe­riod of not con­trol­ling our bor­ders.’

Bri­tish ter­ror ex­pert An­thony Glees, of the Cen­tre for Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Buck­ing­ham, said Mrs Merkel would face ‘enor­mous reper­cus­sions’ if the at­tacker turns out to be a refugee.

‘If I could, I would turn back time’

Blood on the streets: Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, cir­cled, at the scene yes­ter­day, where she laid a flower, be­low

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