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Merkel, coalition partners meet to discuss refugees

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of her two coalition partners are due to meet on the refugee crisis. A sticking point has been "transit zones" to identify those without asylum chances on arrival.

Thursday's meeting in Berlin is set to be round two of high level discussions between the party leaders: Merkel of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Horst Seehofer of her Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Sigmar Gabriel of grand coalition partner the Social Democrats (SPD).

The trio had

met on Sunday without a consensus

being reached on the key issue of whether to establish so-called "transit zones" on Germany's borders. Such facilities would mean migrants' eligibility for asylum would be evaluated as they arrive into Germany. It would make it easier for migrants with little chance of gaining asylum, such as people from countries deemed safe by the government, to be deported.

The idea has been advocated by Horst Seehofer, the CSU premier of Bavaria, which has become the point of entry for thousands of people desperate to reach Germany after fleeing war or poverty. Last week Seehofer issued an ultimatum for Merkel to toughen her border policies; otherwise his party would resort to "emergency measures."

While the CDU and CSU have reached a compromise and are now

presenting a united front

, the SPD this week has continued to

speak out against transit zones

, saying it would amount to keeping asylum seekers in captivity. On Monday, SPD leader and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said few the newest arrivals to Germany were from so-called "safe" countries of origin and therefore the transit zone debate was "totally phony" and distracted from the real challenges of helping refugees.

As refugees continue to arrive, the

politicians are facing pressure

to come up with better ways to handle the situation. They have also come under fire this week from business leaders who

criticized the intra-coalition infighting.

Germany is expecting between 800,000 and a million people to apply for asylum this year alone, more than double the number than in previous years.

Merkel is also due to discuss the refugee situation with the leaders of Germany's 16 federal states.

se/kms (dpa, EPD, AFP)

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