Germany will not stop anyone from seeking asylum, says Merkel

Finland’s prime minister offers his home to refugees

Refugees cheer as they cross the border arriving from Hungary to Austria. Photograph: Roland Schlager/EPA

Refugees cheer as they cross the border arriving from Hungary to Austria. Photograph: Roland Schlager/EPA


Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country will not stop anyone from seeking asylum, as thousands of migrants desperate to leave Hungary make their way westward to Germany and Austria.

German officials recently predicted that up to 800,000 migrants would arrive by the end of the year, many of them refugees fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.

“The right to political asylum has no limits on the number of asylum seekers,” Ms Merkel told the Funke consortium of newspapers in an interview.

“As a strong, economically healthy country we have the strength to do what is necessary” and ensure every asylum seeker gets a fair hearing, she added.

But Ms Merkel repeated her government’s position that migrants who do not meet the criteria for asylum need to be returned to their home countries.

Even prosperous Germany has struggled to meet the demand for additional housing for the tens of thousands of migrants arriving monthly.

Ms Merkel said her government was not planning to raise taxes to pay for the additional cost. But her governing coalition will be meeting on Sunday to discuss how best to cope with the migrant influx.

Germany’s willingness to help migrants has contrasted starkly with other European governments, such as Hungary and Britain. This stance has added to the desire among many migrants to strike out for Germany.

Ms Merkel said it was touching to see hundreds of migrants chanting “Germany, Germany” at a railway station in Budapest earlier this week.

“This wasn’t always the case, but I still have to insist on a fair distribution of the burden across all of Europe,” she was quoted as saying. Germany and some other European countries have called for the creation of special reception centres in Italy and Greece, where migrants can stay while their asylum requests are processed.

Ms Merkel said that would prevent the uncontrolled entry into Europe of people who might pose a security threat.

“Only this way can the security agencies check whether they have information about certain people,” she was quoted as saying.

Ms Merkel said she was confident Europe would meet the challenge.

“This should be possible, because Europe is based on common values, and help for those in need of protection is one of them,” she said.

‘A look in the mirror’

Meanwhile, Finland’s prime minister Juha Sipila said on Saturday he would offer his home to refugees.

Mr Sipila said his home in Kempele, northern Finland, was little used at the moment and would house asylum seekers from the start of next year.

“We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help,“ Mr Sipila told national broadcaster YLE.

He said an EU plan to distribute 120,000 refugees arriving in Greece, Italy and Hungary to countries around the European Union should be voluntary and hoped Finland could show an example.

Finland’s government doubled its estimate on Friday for the number of asylum seekers in the country this year to up to 30,000.

Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz reiterated on Saturday that accepting 2,000 migrants was enough, given Poland’s capabilities.

Speaking after a specially convened meeting regarding the migrant issue, Mr Kopacz said: “The number of 2,000 can be deemed enough. We are ready to take care of such a group.”

“We are committed to solidarity, but it has to be a responsible solidarity. We do not expect solidarity beyond measure and we think that our responsible solidarity should be adequate to the country’s capabilities, without destabilising it.”