Angela Merkel’s response to refugee crisis criticised by CDU

German chancellor warns centre-right party to resist temptations of nationalist solutions

Chancellor Angela Merkel's response to Germany's refugee crisis is driving a bad-tempered wedge through her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Dr Merkel has stood firm on her liberal asylum policy, calling it a “task of historical proportions” in Strasbourg on Wednesday and, at home, warning her party to resist temptations of razor wire and nationalist solutions.

But her line has prompted a furious reaction from regional officials, who say they have been abandoned to cope with at least 800,000 refugees forecast to arrive.

Bavaria's state premier Horst Seehofer warned Dr Merkel on Wednesday his state, receiving the largest number of people from southern and eastern Europe, will soon resort to "self-defence" unless asylum-seeker numbers are controlled.


Meanwhile, three dozen CDU regional politicians, mayors and other officials have warned the German leader in an open letter that her “open borders policy corresponds neither to EU law nor is it in line with the CDU party programme”.

It was a nod to Berlin’s instruction to federal immigration authorities to no longer send back Syrian asylum seekers to their point of entry in the EU, according to the Dublin rules.

Since then, the critical CDU officials said, authorities from Greece and Slovenia to Hungary and Austria are simply passing on asylum seekers into Germany.

With resources already exhausted, and a new wave of migrants likely in the coming weeks, they demanded a return to existing EU rules, expedited deportations and additional "help for and pressure on" Greece and Turkey.

Finally, the CDU politicians called on Berlin to follow the Danish model.

“The federal government and you personally should take out newspaper advertisements in countries of origin . . . that people not subject to political persecution have no right to come to Germany and will be deported promptly,” the letter added.

The letter is just the latest sign of disobedience over the refugee crisis in the CDU, a party that is historically loyal to its leader, particularly in recent years where Dr Merkel’s popularity has always been far beyond the party’s.

But Dr Merkel’s popularity, while still high, is sliding on a weekly basis. And though the CDU remains steady, a new poll has put the hard-right, immigration critical Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) up two points and gaining on 7 per cent.

The AfD is gaining support in eastern German states, holding weekly marches in the eastern city of Erfurt. In neighbouring Saxony, meanwhile, the anti-Islam Pegida group is regaining strength.

Meanwhile, a German television show has come under fire for illustrating a report on refugees with a photo montage of Dr Merkel, head covered in a chador.

The montage in “Bericht aus Berlin”, observant views pointed out, bore striking similarities to a placard shown at a Pegida march in Dresden last January.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin