Merkel critics call for refugee limits
In an interview broadcast on German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday evening, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the refugee crisis was a "very big task," Germany would be able to cope.
During the "Interview of the Week," Merkel said that asylum procedures needed to be sped up and that borders should be better protected. The chancellor also said it was essential to deal with the reasons people were fleeing at the source, and ensure that refugees were fairly distributed around Europe.
Building fences along borders was "pointless," Merkel said, as refugees would find another way of entering Europe. "I don't think that fences help. We saw that in Hungary," she added.
Merkel also said that there would be no changes to Germany's basic asylum law and that Germany would continue to abide by the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.
Top-selling German newspaper "Bild" on Monday reported that as many as 1.5 million asylum seekers could arrive in the country this year. The paper cited an "internal prognosis" that it said was classified as secret, without providing further details. The paper reported a likely rate of between 6,000 and 10,000 "illegal border crossings" per day in the fourth quarter of the year.
'We can't manage': Schäuble
Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel's finance minister, said in an interview with broadcaster ZDF on Sunday that Europe needed to restrict the number of people coming to the continent. "We need to limit the influx to Europe," he said. "We can't manage this task at a national level anymore."
"The EU will do that very quickly now, above all with Turkey," Schäuble added. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" and public broadcaster ARD reported on Sunday that the European Commission and the Turkish government had tentatively agreed to set up six new refugee camps for up to 2 million people, along with increased Greek-Turkish border patrols.
Lorenz Caffier, of Merkel's Christian Democrats, claimed Sunday that as many as 1.5 million refugees could arrive in Germany in 2015. He told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper that many of the federal states were "at their limit."
On Saturday, Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer also criticized the refugee policy, calling Merkel's handling of the crisis a mistake.
Activists form 'living border' against refugees
The political statements came as right-wing activists with the anti-Islam PEGIDA group gathered to form what they called a "living border" against refugees coming into Germany. The demonstration on Sunday attracted 2,500 people in the town of Sebnitz, on the border with the Czech Republic.
On Saturday, around 1,000 people turned out for a "march of silence" in the city of Chemnitz to protest plans to adapt a former military base in the east of the country into housing for refugees.
In the town of Görlitz on Saturday, a further 1,000 anti-immigrant protesters marched behind the slogan of "Görlitz defends itself" while 500 people held a rally with the opposite sentiment: "Görlitz cosmopolitan."
jm/msh (dpa, Reuters)