Bavarian premier wants to cap number of migrants in Germany

Horst Seehofer wants 200,000 limit this year, less than one-fifth of total in 2015

Days before Taoiseach Enda Kenny travels to Bavaria, its premier Horst Seehofer has demanded that Germany cap asylum applications at one-fifth of the 2015 total – and that other EU states accept more of the burden.

Horst Seehofer has warned that Germany is still struggling with the one million people who arrived last year. In Bavaria, first point of arrival for those fleeing war, tensions are high after a New Year’s Eve alert forced the shut-down of Munich central station.

Mr Seehofer said that, from experience, Germany would have “no problem” accepting up to 200,000 asylum applications in 2016, less than a fifth of those who came in 2015.

"Everything above that I consider too much," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in a clear challenge to chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.


She has conceded that German asylum numbers need to come down – but not by imposing arbitrary limits on the universal obligations to offer refuge and assess asylum applications.

But her concession increases pressure to ensure progress on reducing numbers on other fronts, in particular more effective operation of so-called hotspots on the EU outer border, to register arrivals and redistribute them throughout the bloc.

Shoulder the burden

Mr Seehofer urged other EU states to show a greater readiness to accept civil war refugees but suggested the reluctance to shoulder the burden was because of an “egotism in Europe that is stronger than ever before”.

In a nod to the EU’s existing “Dublin” procedures on migration, obliging people to file asylum applications in the EU state of first arrival, Mr Seehofer noted that people arriving in Bavaria “have crossed many countries in which they were not persecuted”.

Mr Kenny will meet Mr Seehofer on Friday, three years after their last meeting in a Bavarian Alpine resort, when the Taoiseach was met with applause from Bavarian politicians, but no firm commitment in Mr Kenny’s campaign to reduce Ireland’s legacy debt.

Parked his demands

Three years on, Ireland’s economy is recovering and Mr Kenny has parked his demands for debt relief and EU solidarity. Now it is Bavaria demanding solidarity from the rest of Europe in dealing with the refugee crisis, with no end in sight.

In early December Germany passed the one million mark for asylum-seeker arrivals in 2015. Despite the arrival of winter, with temperatures below freezing over the weekend, about 5,000 people are still arriving daily in Germany, half that of highs in the late summer.

The people are then distributed for processing in Germany’s’s federal states according to a formula that takes into account a state’s population size and economic strength.

With 15 per cent, Bavaria is accepting the second-highest proportion of asylum seekers, or about 150,000 last year. The lowest number of asylum seekers has been assigned to the central state of Thuringia. With a population size that is half of Ireland’s and a land mass that is one quarter the size of Ireland, Thuringia nevertheless accepted about 27,000 asylum applicants in 2015.

Under EU resettlement and relocation programmes, Ireland agreed last September to accept up to 4,000 people over two years.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin