A senior Bavarian cabinet minister has suggested that it was safe to have hundreds of thousands of refugees sent back. Markus Söder's comments came as Germany looks back at one year of the migrant crisis.
Bavaria's Finance Minister Markus Söder said that a large number of refugees should be sent back to their countries of origin. Instead of encouraging family reunions, legislators should push for the "return of several hundreds of thousands of refugees in the next three years," Söder said in the weekly German news magazine, "Spiegel."
He added that despite the best of intentions it would not be possible to successfully integrate so many people from a completely different cultural background into Germany. Söder stressed, that the interior ministry had upgraded certain regions of Iraq and Afghanistan to safe areas, to which in his view migrants could be returned.
"And the civil war in Syria will also end one day," he highlighted with a firm emphasis that German law stipulates the return of refugees to their home countries if their grounds of seeking refugee status were no longer applicable.
Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) has repeatedly clashed with its sister party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) over the issue of refugees.
The head of the rightwing "Alternative for Germany" party (AfD) Frauke Petry made similar comments, saying that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) should be phased out into becoming a government office in charge of sending migrants back. She added that rejected asylum seekers should spend two years on islands "outside Europe."
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of Merkel's junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), in an interview with broadcaster ZDF said that Germany could not take in one million refugees as it did last year.
"I, we always said that it's inconceivable for Germany to take in a million people every year," Gabriel said, adding Merkel's conservatives had "underestimated" the challenge of integrating migrants.
Parties on the opposing end of the political spectrum also made statements about the refugee situation. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, parliamentary leader of the Green Party, said that in order to deal with the backlog of asylum applications there should be new policies. She suggested that at least 100,000 refugees, who had been living in Germany for a long time, should automatically be granted residence permits if they agreed to withdraw their asylum applications.
Göring-Eckardt told the regional daily newspaper "Osnabrücker Zeitung" that old asylum applications were too complicated, taking resources away from more pressing cases.
Göring-Eckardt added that by signing the refugee deal with Turkey, Germany had merely pushed the issue of migrants outside the borders of the European Union for no apparent reason and without addressing its causes properly, while becoming dependent upon Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's whims.
"The European Union is in the hands of an autocratic leader," she said.
ss/kl (Reuters, AFP)