Merkel moves to limit refugees' family reunions

2015-11-09 20:03
(Photo: David Gannon, AFP)

(Photo: David Gannon, AFP)

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Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel moved on Monday to defuse a row in her government's ranks over the refugee crisis by attempting to limit the number of newcomers entering the nation.

Refugees who have already arrived in Germany will not automatically be able to have their families join them given the massive numbers of people trying to enter the nation, the chancellor's spokesperson Steffen Seibert said.

He said family reunions were becoming nearly impossible because German authorities are working at full capacity to register and house those who have already reached the nation with many of them fleeing the war in Syria.

"When you view this reality across the country, then it's clear to anyone: Family reunions just aren't possible under these conditions," said Seibert, adding that this would not involve any changes to German law.

Seibert's comments followed renewed tensions in Merkel's conservative-led coalition, which were triggered on Friday after Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere appeared to catch the government off guard by calling for limits to be placed on the asylum status of Syrian refugees.

However, Seibert's statement indicates that the government has moved in the direction of the interior minister, who also argued that Syrian claims for family reunion should be suspended.

Still, de Maziere's remarks added to the sense of confusion surrounding Berlin's attempts to hammer out a comprehensive response to the refugee crisis that has hit the nation in recent months.

De Maziere's comments resulted in Merkel being forced to declare her confidence in her interior minister after she relieved him last month of the role of political co-ordinator of the government's stance on the refugee crisis and incorporated it in her own office.

Asked if de Maiziere retained Merkel's confidence, Seibert told a government briefing: "Of course he does."

At a meeting last Thursday coalition leaders decided to adopt a two-year suspension of family reunions for groups of refugees with so-called subsidiary protection, which is less than full asylum.

On Friday, de Maziere declared that Syrians could fall under the subsidiary protection category, saying that their claims for asylum had to be tested on an individual basis.

Since then, de Maziere has also secured the support for placing restrictions on Syrian refugees from both Seehofer and the nation's powerful Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who is a key member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

About 10 000 refugees mostly from wars in the Middle East and Africa are thought to be crossing into Germany each day with the total number for this year expected to top 1 million.

Thursday's meeting between Merkel and the leaders of her coalition partners - the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) - was aimed at ending weeks of tensions in the coalition over how to handle the flood of asylum seekers into the country.

The talks between Merkel and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel as well as CSU chief Horst Seehofer also agreed to establish registration centres along Germany's borders so as to turn away refugees without claims for asylum before they enter the nation.

In particular, this includes refugees from Balkan states who Germany does not consider have legitimate claims for asylum.

Read more on:    angela merkel  |  germany  |  migrants

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