Sunday 19 November 2017

German MPs 'to defy Merkel on refugee policy'

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel

Justin Huggler in Berlin

German MPs have reportedly drawn up plans to close the country's borders in a direct challenge to Angela Merkel's refugee policy.

The move is the latest threat to the Schengen Agreement on border-free travel in continental Europe.

A group of 188 MPs, including many from Mrs Merkel's own Christian Democrat party, have prepared laws to fence off sections of the border. They say they will put them forward if Mrs Merkel does not come up with a solution to the refugee crisis within weeks.

"We must stop the flow of refugees. Considering a border fence should not be a taboo," Christian von Stetten, the leader of the rebels and a member of Ms Merkel's party, told 'Bild' newspaper.

The proposals come after Rainer Wendt, the head of the German police union, called for a border fence over the weekend.

Germany has suspended the Schengen Agreement and imposed temporary border controls in an attempt to slow the influx of refugees.

But Mrs Merkel has refused to consider a permanent closure. She has repeatedly spoken out against a similar fence Hungary has built along its southern border to keep refugees out, and compared it to the Berlin Wall. The chancellor has turned to Turkey to help stem the migrant flows, giving German backing to an EU deal that would give billions of euro in aid and a new liberalised visa regime to Turkey in exchange for stopping more Syrians from crossing into Europe.

But despite positive talks in Ankara over the weekend, Turkey has continued to drive a hard bargain. Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, said that his country would not host migrants permanently to appease the EU. "I said this to Merkel too. No one should expect Turkey to turn into a concentration camp where all the refugees stay in," he said.

The MPs' challenge to Mrs Merkel came ahead of a protest march that was expected to draw thousands of people in Dresden to mark the first anniversary of the founding of the Pegida anti-immigrant movement.

Pegida, which drew crowds of 25,000 at its height before collapsing earlier this year, has been trying to regroup around opposition to Mrs Merkel's refugee policy.

In a further sign of growing tension over the refugee issue, a Libyan asylum-seeker was attacked and badly beaten close to the main government refugee office in Berlin. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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