Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Germany's lack of progress in deporting migrants who have had their claim to stay in the country turned down. She said it was necessary to reassure voters about immigration policy.
Speaking at a meeting of the youth wing of Merkel's Christian Democrat CDU, the chancellor said deportations had to happen more quickly - to show the electorate that concerns over migration were being taken seriously.
Merkel, who has been criticized for her open-door policy for those seeking asylum, said Germany needed to step up deportations once asylum requests were denied.
"We need a national effort to return those who have been rejected," Merkel stressed. "That is undisputed, and we are working on that at the moment with great vigor."
When smaller numbers of asylum seekers arrived in the past, those refused the right to stay were not always deported rigorously. Given the high number of refugees and migrants, Merkel said, that situation now needed to change.
The chancellor said arguments between states, local communities and the central government about who should bear responsibility for the task were counterproductive.
"It doesn't interest anyone at all," Merkel said. "Citizens ask us, 'Are you doing it, or not?' It really doesn't matter if we point fingers at each other - that only leads to political disenchantment. The problem must be solved."
Fall in applications
Merkel said that to do so, there should be increased staffing for the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees, as well as local offices dealing with foreign nationals.
Officials have long maintained that Germany must do more to make sure rejected asylum-seekers leave. Some 60,000 left or were deported between January and September.
Germany has seen a steep decline in the number of asylum-seekers making applications this year, compared with last. Some 213,000 arrived in the first nine months of 2016, compared with 890,000 last year.
One of Merkel's greatest critics over the refugee crisis has been Horst Seehofer, the state premier of Bavaria and leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party the CSU.
'Close to war crimes'
Merkel also addressed the Syrian conflict, from which many of the refugees have been fleeing. She noted that talks between the US and Russia were resuming, but voiced some concern. "These talks unfortunately haven't in the recent past led to a permanent cease-fire."
The chancellor condemned the bombings of hospitals and other important facilities in Aleppo as "inhuman."
"I think we are very close to war crimes. Whether there are war crimes, the International
Court of Justice decides."
"The much more important thing would be how can we stop it all and move on to a political process?"
rc/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)