German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asserted that Germany would not have to raise taxes to help pay for caring for the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving in the country this year, according to an interview to be published in Monday's edition of top-selling German newspaper "Bild."
"We can be pleased that we have been well managed for years and that our economic situation is currently good," she said in comments made available Sunday, adding that despite the large number of newcomers, nobody should "worry that a refugee will take away from their own quality of care" when it came to the country's health system.
Merkel, who has faced opposition from some of her political allies over her stance on refugees, also maintained she was not concerned by polls showing a drop in her approval ratings.
"The polls are not my measurement," she said, adding that her task was finding solutions to problems "and to that, I am giving my total concentration."
One poll by the Sunday newspaper "Bild am Sonntag" showed 48 percent of those surveyed disagreed with Merkel's handling of the migration crisis, while only 39 percent supported her approach.
German officials have forecast that 800,000 people would apply for asylum in the country this year, with speculation circulating through the German media that the number of refugees could reach 1.5 million by December. Many have fled wars in Syria and other parts of the Middle East but many others are seeking a way out of poverty.
Meeting with ministers
Merkel, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and the interior ministers of Germany's federal states spent five hours on Sunday evening talking through the country's handling of the migration situation.
The interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia, Ralf Jäger of the Social Democrats, said they had intensive discussions about the problems facing states and municipalities. They are tasked with looking after asylum seekers while their applications are being processed and coordinating the integration of people found to be refugees. According to Jäger, the parties were to continue discussions about setting up so-called "transit zones" near German borders.
Germany's new refugee coordinator Peter Altmaier has indicated that it would be decided within a few days whether to establish such zones which would allow for people's asylum requests to be evaluated upon arrival - and for people who did not fulfill the criteria to be rejected more quickly. Such systems already operate at airports - although airports deal with far fewer people than do those who deal with refugees who have been crossing into Germany overland in recent weeks.
Merkel pledged to meet with local authority representatives on the migration crisis once a month.
se/jm (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)