German gov’t to preserve refugee policy despite recent polls

German government spokesman says Merkel will stick to its refugee policy despite regional election results

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on at the beginning of a party meeting at the headquarters of the German Christian Democratic Party in Berlin, Germany, Monday, March 14, 2016 one day after the elections.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans no changes to her refugee policy, a spokesman for the German government said on Monday, despite heavy losses in regional elections at the weekend.

The spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "The German government will continue to stick to its refugee policy with all its might both at home and abroad."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert arrives at a cabinet meeting of the outgoing German government of the Christian Union parties and the Free Democrats in Berlin, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

"The goal must be a common, sustainable European solution that leads to a tangible reduction of the number of refugees in all (EU) member states," adding that Merkel would continue cooperating with Turkey to reduce refugee flows.

In elections on Sunday, Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union suffered defeats in two out of three states just as the Alternative for Germany party, AfD, campaigning against her refugee policy surged to double-digit results.

"The central reason (for the losses) is refugee policy - there is no point in talking past it" Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, Merkel's most prominent internal critic of recent months, said Monday.

However, many viewed the overall outcome as a sign of support for her approach.

Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University, said that even if voters ended up voting for other parties "Ms. Merkel's refugee policy was supported by the majority of voters.”

The state elections were the biggest since Germany registered a record influx of refugees that reached 1.1 million in 2015, and largely regarded as a referendum on Merkel's decision to open the doors to people fleeing war.

Merkel insisted last year that "we will manage" the challenge of integrating refugees.

Other countries' border closures have lately reduced the refugee flow to a trickle and Merkel has made clear she's not planning to bring the refugees now stuck in Greece to Germany.

Seibert said "Domestically, we are committed to easing the integration of people who have been taken in seeking for protection.”

Merkel, who was expected to give her first reaction to the polls shortly after midday, has so far resolutely refused to impose a cap on refugee arrivals, insisting instead on common European action that includes distributing asylum seekers among the EU's 28 member-states.

TRTWorld and agencies