After her second electoral defeat in two weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a step back on her refugee policy, admitting that she lost control of the refugee crisis in Germany and was unable to provide a safe place to stay for the 1.1 million refugees who came to Germany in 2015, and for many others that have continued to arrive this year."For some time, we didn't have enough control," Chancellor Merkel said in a speech on Monday, according to a report by the Independent on Wednesday. "No one wants a repeat of last year's situation, including me," she noted, expressing her regret and saying she would "turn back time" if she could. Her statements come amid growing outrage at her decision to let in a million refugees in the last year.
After historic losses in the Berlin election, Merkel's relationship with her conservative Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has severely deteriorated. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) poor showing in recent regional elections led her Bavarian ally to put heavy pressure on her to change course on her liberal refugee policy.
Germany introduced border controls on Sept. 13, 2015 to stem the daily flow of thousands of refugees. The controls have been extended several times since then, most recently in May, for another six months.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday he does not expect there to be a repeat of the situation in Germany last year, when migrants were arriving in large numbers, adding that border controls should remain in place. Security concerns have grown since about 1 million, mainly Muslim, migrants arrived in 2015, boosting the popularity of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).
"We agree that in late summer and autumn last year we had a special situation," de Maiziere told delegates at a conference of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian party long at odds with its sister party, the CDU, over how to tackle the migrant influx. "This special situation shall not and will not be repeated and this will only happen with joint efforts on the European and also national level," said the CDU's de Maiziere.
The CSU wants to cap arrivals at 200,000 per year but Merkel has so far refused that. However, she said on Monday that if Germans did not want uncontrolled migration "then that is exactly what I am fighting for." De Maiziere said he wanted border controls on the Austrian-German border to remain in place beyond mid-November if the situation remained as it is today. "Of course we want to have the goal of a Schengen zone free of border controls but a requirement for this is the lasting and sustainable protection of our external borders," de Maiziere said, noting that Germany was working "at full speed" on that.
Merkel's CDU won just 18 percent in the Berlin election; its worst post-war result in the city, before or after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall on Sept. 18. She was relegated to third place behind an anti-immigration party in the regional election in her constituency in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in early September.