Debate about refugee policy: Steinmeier sees Germany “at the breaking point”

Debate about refugee policy
Steinmeier sees Germany “at the limit”

In no other EU country have as many asylum applications been submitted since the beginning of the year as in Germany. During a visit to Italy, Federal President Steinmeier called for joint action by the international community. However, the federal government does not want to directly agree with his description of the situation.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is pushing for a fair distribution of arriving migrants in Europe. Germany and Italy are “at the limit” when it comes to accepting refugees, he told the Italian newspaper.Corriere della Sera“We must work together and in a concentrated manner on humane and long-term sustainable European solutions. He thanked Italy for having shown an “immense degree of humanitarian responsibility” towards “refugees who came across the Mediterranean”. In order to cope with the “great burdens” that both Italy and Germany bear, a “fair sharing of the burden in Europe” as well as “stricter control and surveillance of our European external borders” are necessary.

At a meeting with President Sergio Mattarella, he again called for a European solution. “It doesn’t work without common European rules.” The growing number of refugees arriving in Italy and Germany would bring municipalities to the end of their capacity. On the one hand, it is necessary for fewer people to arrive, but on the other hand, it is also necessary to combat smugglers. In Germany, Steinmeier would like to see “a very reasonable debate about what instruments are possible.” It shouldn’t be about headlines. “We should not, from a high moral base, accuse some of misanthropy and others of policies that open the floodgates.”

Deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner did not want to comment directly on Steinmeier’s statement that Germany was at its “breaking point.” But it is true that “the high number of accesses necessitates a major national effort,” he said in Berlin. The federal, state and local governments are “burdened together” and must also “work together on a solution”.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser emphasized in the Bundestag that there was a need for “stronger control and order of migration processes”. The aim must be to ensure that the internal borders of the Schengen area remain open, said the SPD politician. Therefore, investments must be made in protecting the EU’s external borders and the reform of the European asylum system (CEAS) must be implemented as quickly as possible. The minister reaffirmed that she would continue to conduct veiled searches in the border area with Poland and the Czech Republic. There is now an agreement to form a police task force with both countries in order to take tougher action against smugglers.

CDU also wants an upper limit

In the past few days, thousands of refugees from Africa have landed on the small southern Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. The federal government had previously suspended the program for the voluntary admission of migrants from Italy in August – also in protest against the fact that Italy is currently blocking the return of asylum seekers according to the so-called Dublin rules.

According to government figures, more than 130,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year – almost twice as many as in the entire previous year. However, the country is significantly behind other EU member states in terms of asylum applications submitted: in 2022, 84,000 applications were submitted in Italy, while 156,000 were submitted in France and 244,000 in Germany.

The day before, CDU leader Merz agreed with Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder that Germany could only cope with accepting around 200,000 migrants and refugees per year. The number is an indication of what the country can cope with, said Merz.

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