German coalition talks face setbacks over migration cap

Published 26.10.2017 22:37

The potential partners in Germany's next government started to tackle some of the trickiest issues, with conservatives insisting on limits to the number of migrants the country accepts.

The third round of negotiations between Chancellor Angela Merkel's would-be coalition partners set to focus on immigration and asylum policies will be "extraordinarily difficult," a leading member of the Greens said yesterday.

The archconservative CSU has conditioned its participation in the coalition on a cap of 200,000 on the number of migrants entering Germany each year. Bavaria has borne the brunt of refugee arrivals via its southern border with Austria. Both smaller parties are opposed to any such cap, arguing that it runs counter to constitutional rules on the right to asylum.

The untested three-way alliance with the Greens and the FDP - the so-called Jamaica coalition - is currently the only option available for Merkel.

Merkel's conservatives want to continue suspending the right to family reunions for asylum seekers who only have subsidiary protection after March 2018. FDP leader Christian Lindner told news magazine Der Spiegel on Thursday that the issue of family reunions would "absolutely" lead to a conflict with the Greens, who are strongly opposed to their suspension.

Two weeks after winning elections with a reduced majority, Chancellor Merkel agreed to limit Germany's refugee intake in a bid to unite her conservative camp ahead of tough coalition talks to form a new government.

Merkel's team huddled with her Bavarian CSU allies led by Horst Seehofer, who has angrily blamed her decision to allow in over one million asylum seekers since 2015 for the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Merkel had long rejected Seehofer's signature demand for an iron-cast "upper limit" of 200,000 refugees a year -- but late Sunday a deal was shaping up that some commentators dubbed an "upper limit light." The draft deal includes a target of limiting the refugee intake at 200,000 a year, but with caveats. It also says that asylum seekers will not be turned back before their cases are assessed, in line with the German constitution. The 200,000-figure refers to controlled entries, such as through family reunions, and refugees accepted at the EU level or under a deal between the bloc and Turkey. If there were a repeat of the chaotic mass migration like that from war-torn Syria and other conflict zones seen in 2015, the government would reassess the issue and consult parliament on a new target figure, according to the draft proposal.

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