German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday attempted to appease vocal critics of her open-door policy for refugees by saying that the asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq would return home once the conflicts are over in the region.
Speaking at a meeting of her party members, Merkel said that 70 percent of refugees that fled to Germany from the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s had returned to their home countries. She said that even though Germany is working hard to integrate refugees, it is important to emphasize that they would only have temporary accommodation, and would need to go back to their countries once the conflicts end.
"We need ... to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once IS has been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained," she told a regional meeting of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), according to Reuters.
The refugee crisis has continued to polarized Germany, and Europe with Merkel facing criticism from several European countries and German lawmakers including her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, and the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party. The CSU leader, Horst Seehofer, said that she would take the government to court, if Merkel doesn’t cut the influx of refugees, according to Reuters.
Support for her conservative bloc has drastically slipped with growing concerns as to whether Germany will have the capacity to integrate the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the past year. A recent poll by Focus Magazine reported that “of the 2,047 Germans surveyed, 40 percent said Merkel should resign, over her policy on refugees, Al Jazeera reported.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), has increasingly gained popularity with its anti-refugee campaign, and is now in the double digits. On Saturday, its leader was quoted saying that migrants entering illegally should, if necessary, be shot, according to Reuters.
The decrease in approval represents a complete turnaround from a few months ago where she received widespread support in Germany, but despite increasing isolation, Merkel has resisted pressure from some conservatives to cap the influx of refugees, or to close Germany's borders.
Still, the pressure has forced the chancellor to take new measures. On Friday, Merkel announced a new draft law that would tighten rules for asylum seekers in Germany, known as “Asylum Package II.” The new bill, as The Christian Science Monitor reported will “speed up the asylum procedure, further regulations, streamline deportation, and designate some north African countries – Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria – as safe, which means citizens from those countries will not be accepted as refugees.”
In response to the New Year's Cologne attacks, the German cabinet approved measures which make deporting foreign criminals easier. The attacks were mainly blamed on foreigners in the country, which police said were described as being of "Arab or North African" origin.
Merkel has called on other European countries to share the burden of refugees, but continues to face resistance. The UN estimates that “up to a million migrants could try to come to Europe via the eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans next year,” Reuters reported.