The world is in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II but millions of migrants and asylum seekers are facing even harsher crackdowns.
The most recent case in point: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who once pushed for an open-border policy, has just agreed to a half-baked deal that will make it harder still for migrants to enter Germany.
Merkel has faced a revolt from far-right parties over her comparatively welcoming stance towards migrants and refugees. To save her crumbling governing coalition and mollify her rebellious Bavarian allies, the German chancellor has agreed to close asylum “transit camps” along three Austrian borders.
According to The Atlantic, migrants seeking asylum in Germany, who have already applied on other European Union countries would not be turned back at the border immediately. Instead, they will be camped at transit centers along the German-Austrian border. From there, Germany will send rejected asylum seekers back to their countries after they strike a negotiation with the countries. If a deal is not struck, rejected refugees will be sent back to Austria on the basis of an agreement with Vienna.
In February, Germany’s two largest political parties, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the combined center-right Christian Democratic Union (led by Merkel) and Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria (led by Horst Seehofer) renewed a coalition agreement with Merkel at the helm. The CSU governs the state of Bavaria while Merkel’s party governs the other 15 states.
The three-party coalition ensures Merkel secures a majority in parliament and stays in power. However, the far-right nationalist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), is rapidly gaining support in Bavaria and could jeopardize the coalition. Presumably, this is what led Seehofer, who governs Bavaria, to oppose Merkel and take a harsher stance on immigration.
The CSU head threatened to resign as interior minister unless he got powers to expel migrants, including those who have already applied for asylum. After a tough negotiation, the beleaguered Merkel agreed to the deal. However, the move has sowed doubt in the center-left Social Democrat Party, who says transit centers weren’t part of their coalition deal with Merkel and Seehofer. In fact, the SDP had rejected a proposal for such centers in 2015 when the migrants entering Germany from Austria were far larger in number.
Merkel also may have caved to pressure from Seehofer but her new agreement has introduced new problems.
Austria has shown no sign it will accept turned away refugees from Germany, despite the fact they may have entered the country through Austria. On Tuesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz threatened if Germany expelled refugees, they will do the same, which could lead to a collapse of the EU’s internal open-border system. In fact it was this scenario that made Merkel so reluctant to accept Seehofer’s plan in the first place.
The situation is a disappointingly far cry from 2015 when Germany reportedly took in more than 1.4 million war-torn refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, it only takes in about 10,000 immigrants each month.
This divisiveness within the German government signals a bigger rift in the Europe regarding migration. Aside from Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia also refuse to accept immigrants from EU countries.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters