Germany agrees compromise on refugees after ‘intense’ talks

Merkel reveals proposals on expediting asylum applications and registration camps

German chancellor Angela Merkel, German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel (r) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (l) address the media before a meeting of German state leaders to discuss the migrant crisis in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

German chancellor Angela Merkel, German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel (r) and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (l) address the media before a meeting of German state leaders to discuss the migrant crisis in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

 

After weeks of bad-tempered rows, Berlin’s grand coalition has agreed to expedite asylum applications and new camps to register over a million refugees estimated to arrive in Germany this year.

After “intense” talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel presented compromise proposals last night that represent a climbdown for her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

On the front line of arrivals from Austria, Bavaria had demanded “transit zones”: ex-territorial camps in border regions to detain new arrivals, with expedited deportations of those with no right to asylum.

But Dr Merkel’s other junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), refused to back the transit zone plan, arguing that they would be effectively state-run mass detention camps.

Asylum experts had raised concerns about the legality of proposals for detaining asylum seekers and refugees.

Under growing domestic pressure over the refugee crisis, Dr Merkel called the compromise a “good, important step forward”.

“These are important measures that make clear we want to speed up the entire procedure,” she said.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said he was “thankful that we have no complicated path over . . . ex-territorial detention camps or transit zones”.

Three to five camps

People with minimal chances of asylum would face an “intensified residency” procedure, CSU leader Horst Seehofer said.

He added that asylum applicants who left their registration region would lose welfare entitlements and face asylum application suspension.

Another new proposal will impose a two-year waiting period before certain groups are allowed bring their families to Germany.

Finally, asylum applicants will be asked to make a “modest contribution” towards the cost of language and integration courses.