Angela Merkel has warned asylum seekers that they are only in Germany temporarily. In a significant change of tone, the German chancellor said even genuine refugees from Syria and Iraq would have to go home once the conflicts had ended.
“If there is peace in Syria and Isil is defeated in Iraq, we expect you to return to your homelands with the knowledge of what you have received from us,” she said.
Mrs Merkel and her ministers sought over the weekend to reassure German voters that the refugee crisis is under control after 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in Europe last year.
“The numbers need to be reduced further and must not rise again, especially not in the spring,” Mrs Merkel told a party meeting. The message was in marked contrast to her previous ‘open-door’ policy.
Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said Germany would not accept economic migrants posing as refugees.
“It is impossible for Germany to take in all the refugees from the world’s crisis regions,” he told ‘Spiegel’ magazine.
Peter Altmaier, the country’s refugee tsar, said Germany was in negotiations to deport criminal asylum seekers to transit countries, such as Turkey.
In the wake of the Cologne sex attacks, the government plans to change the law so that asylum seekers convicted of crimes can be expelled. But in practice, deportations are often impossible.
Around 50,000 asylum seekers have left Germany since the beginning of 2015, either voluntarily or because they were deported, Mr Altmaier said.
Austria, meanwhile, is to pay €500 to those who leave voluntarily. Both countries have toughened their asylum policies in response to public discontent.
Support for Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party (CDU) has fallen to a three-year low, according to a poll yesterday, which found that 34pc of Germans would vote for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU. (© Daily Telegraph, London)