Merkel stays the course on migration

Migrants wait in a bus in front of the chancellery in Berlin. (Markus Schreiber, AP)
Migrants wait in a bus in front of the chancellery in Berlin. (Markus Schreiber, AP)

Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she will stick to her migration policies despite a growing rebellion within the ranks of her conservative political alliance.

Merkel will "reiterate her clear agenda on national and European tasks" in the effort the reduce the influx of migrants at a conference of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) this week despite criticism from allied lawmakers, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert said.

An increasing number of politicians in the alliance of Merkel's CDU and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) is openly criticising the chancellor's open-door migration policy, which resulted in the arrival of 1.1 million migrants in 2015.

The comments from Merkel's spokesperson came after former Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber gave the chancellor an ultimatum to change course on migration by March or risk open rebellion within her alliance.

Stoiber, who sought to become chancellor in 2002 and still holds a powerful position in the CSU, told Germany's Sueddeutsche newspaper that Merkel would have to curb the influx by March. Stoiber dodged the question of whether a failure to do so would result in her ouster.

"The chancellor is acknowledging all of these ... contributions," Seibert said in reference to the criticism, adding that EU leaders would decide in February and March whether her efforts to reduce the influx of migrants was bearing fruit.

Merkel is seeking a deal to resettle asylum seekers across the European Union, thus avoiding a breakdown of free travel and commerce within the bloc. She also wants to work with EU partners to secure the bloc's outer borders and to fulfil a €3bn aid pledge to Turkey, which is hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees.

The arch-conservative Stoiber had told Süddeutsche that the country's southern border with Austria should be closed in order to curb the ongoing influx of migrants. Merkel has repeatedly said that this would undermine German law, which grants victims of political persecution the right of asylum.

Conservative lawmakers in the Bundestag have summarised their grievances in relation to Merkel's migration policies in a letter which is due to be circulated on Monday.

Support for Merkel's immigration policies will be tested in March, when Germany holds three state elections. The chancellor's CDU-CSU alliance has been losing voters to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has campaigned on a platform of stricter immigration controls and a crackdown on criminal asylum seekers.

The AfD, which has been plagued by internal power struggles since it was founded on an anti-euro platform in 2013, is currently polling at between 9 and 11%. It made gains earlier this month after it emerged that asylum seekers had been involved in string of sexual assaults in several German cities on New Year's Eve.

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