Angela Merkel has said she has no qualms about her decision to open Germany’s doors to refugees in 2015, arguing that the policy was “humane” and a reaction to an emergency situation.
German Chancellor said she was convinced that she had made the right decision to allow safe passage – for which she took a political hit in Germany and which appears to have driven the rise of the right-wing populist AfD party.
“All important decisions of the year 2015 I would make again,” she told German publication Welt, referring to the decision to allow refugees free passage into Germany.
She said the policy was justified in that year because of the emergency situation during that particular period.
“At that time, Germany had acted in a very difficult and humane manner,” she added.
“I am convinced of this, and at the same time I say that the year 2015 should not be repeated, it was an emergency situation that we should never experience again, even the refugees.”
She said that any mistakes in her handling of the refugee crisis came before 2015 when Germany opened its doors, arguing that policy had “placed too much on the Dublin system in the past, which has overburdened countries such as Italy and Greece”.
Germany took around 890,000 asylum applications in 2015, though the figure dropped significantly by in the following year to 280,000.
An analysis of figures from the latest full year show that Syrians made up the largest group of arrivals, followed by Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Eritreans and Albanians.
The sheer scare of refugees accepted by Ms Merkel’s government led to a large backlog of asylum applications.
By contrast, the UK took significantly fewer refugees. David Cameron pledged to take 20,000 Syrians by 2020, just 4,000 a year when he made the pledge in 2015.
Additionally, a further commitment to resettle as many as 3,000 Syrian child refugees by the UK was abandoned by Theresa May after just 350 children were resettled. The Government claims it never put a numerical figure on the number it would accept through the “Dubs scheme” – which was championed by Labour peer Lord Dubs, himself a Jewish refugee to the UK from Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII.
The Chancellor was speaking a month ahead of the German federal election, which will take place on 24 September. She is expected to be comfortably returned as the country’s leader, though the right-wing populist AfD is also expected to have MPs elected to the Bundestag for the first time.
Jon Stone Europe Correspondent