Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said he wants to drastically reduce the number of refugees coming into the country. He also announced that Germany would extend its border controls for an indefinite period.
After receiving some 1.1 million asylum-seekers in 2015, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the country is not in a position to match that number in 2016.
"I said in August that around 800,000 [refugees] could come. And in Afghanistan they interpreted this as, Germany is inviting 800,000 Afghans," de Maiziere told public broadcaster MDR on Thursday.
"When I talk about a noticeable reduction, then I mean it exactly that way and that is much less than what it was last year," de Maiziere said.
The minister also announced that the government would extend border controls indefinitely and that German officials were prepared to register every refugee that entered their territory.
"We will send back people who do not have valid entry documents and do not apply for asylum in Germany," de Maiziere told journalists.
Germany was receiving an average of 2,000 refugees every day in January, de Maiziere said, adding that the number had to be reduced even further. He also said the German government would look at a Europe-wide solution to the problem as long as it was feasible, which meant securing external borders, negotiating with Turkey and providing aid in conflict areas.
Chancellor under pressure
Meanwhile, pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel continued to increase from within her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Stanislaw Tillich, the premier of the state of Saxony and a CDU member, insisted Germany needed to reduce the number of migrants accepted in the country.
"Naturally, it is our duty to protect our country from being overwhelmed," he said in an interview with public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "Not only are we pushing our limits, but we have reached the limits of our possibilities to accommodate these people."
Tillich advocated the introduction of a refugee cap like the one recently put in place in Austria and also suggested looking for a national solution, in case the Schengen agreement on free movement ceased to work.
Austrian leaders said on Wednesday they were willing to take in only 37,500 asylum-seekers in 2016 and 130,000 through to 2019. They also decided to implement strict border controls to prevent migrants from illegally entering the country.
Nearly a million refugees entered Germany in 2015. Citizens initially welcomed the migrants, but incidents like sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve have seen public opinion of asylum-seekers drop.
mg/sms (Reuters, AFP)