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Germany's Angela Merkel: 'Refugees must be distributed fairly'

Chancellor Merkel defended her decision to open German borders in 2015, while also urging EU countries to show solidarity on refugees. In a separate TV appearance, the chancellor dodged a question about her main rival.

In an interview published on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood by her resolution two years ago to provide refuge to those fleeing from warfare in Syria and other countries.

"I would take all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again," she told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper, saying they had been necessary to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe."

However, she admitted that EU law at the time had been inadequate for dealing with the enormous refugee influx that ensued. She criticized the so-called "Dublin Regulation" on refugees, which requires those seeking asylum to register in the first EU state they enter.

Read more: Angela Merkel from A to Z

Migration flows in the Mediterranean 2017 ENG

Mediterranean countries bear the brunt of the migrant flows

Unfair burden for Greece and Italy

The regulation means that EU countries on the Mediterranean are forced to take in the overwhelming majority of migrants, most of whom come via the sea route.

"It is unacceptable that Greece and Italy should have to carry the burden alone only because they have the geographical location that they do and the refugees land in them," she told the Welt am Sonntag.

Instead, refugees should be distributed among the EU member states in solidarity, she said.

Calls for redistribution of refugees in the bloc according to a quota scheme have previously met with considerable resistance, particularly from eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary.

Holidays at home?

Merkel, however, also called for harsher measures to be taken against asylum seekers if it was discovered that they had gone on holiday in their countries of origin, as recent reports have suggested.

"Taking holidays in the country in which you are being persecuted is not on," Merkel said, adding that if it did happen, it could be a reason to re-examine any decision to grant asylum to those involved.

Migrants in sea off Libya

Migrants often have difficulties after setting off from Libya

The chancellor also spoke about the issue of EU cooperation with Libya on refugees, which has come under vehement criticism from human rights groups who say migrants in the largely lawless North African country have been subjected to abuses of many kinds.

Merkel said that she wanted to provide the Libyan coast guard "with the necessary equipment to do its work," which under a recent agreement means trying to prevent migrants leaving Libyan territory. She said the EU-Libya deal aimed at preventing human trafficking, which had led to many deaths.

But she said that at the same time, the EU "of course considers it to be of the greatest importance that the Libyan coast guard adheres to the rules of international law in dealing with refugees and migrants as well as with nongovernmental organizations."

If doubts were to arise about Libya's behavior in this regard, the reports would be investigated, Merkel said.

Watch video 01:14

Webvideo Niger: Country of transit

Merkel 'happy' to be chancellor

In a separate interview on the German public broadcaster ZDF, Merkel commented that international aid organizations require 150 million euros ($179 million) to create acceptable condition for refugee centers in Libya.

"We are giving around 50 million euro, which seems to be enough for the time being, and we are willing to give more," she said.

The chancellor also referred to the upcoming election on September 24, and the televised debate with her main rival Martin Schulz from the left-leaning SPD next week.

"We have four more weeks of tough going ahead," she said, despite her CDU party commanding a comfortable lead with 39 percent of support. The SPD has been stagnating at around 23 percent.

Merkel sidestepped a question on Schulz, refusing to answer if he would make a good chancellor. Instead, she answered his criticism of the chancellor being "aloof," saying that she was aiming to fulfill her oath of office and "serve to the benefit of German people."

"I am happy to serve [as chancellor] and that is why I am competing with Martin Schulz," she said.

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