The German migration deal explained

What Angela Merkel has proposed in an 11th-hour agreement

How did Chancellor Angela Merkel resolve the migration row with her Bavarian allies?

With an eleventh-hour agreement to set up “transit camps” at three main border crossings along the 816km Austrian-German border in Bavaria. Migrants seeking asylum will not officially enter German territory until they are released from the camp on the basis of a successful, expedited application. Those who are rejected will be returned to their country of origin in the EU or, failing that, to Austria “on the basis of an agreement with the republic of Austria”.

How did Austria react to this offer?

Badly. Foreign minister Karin Kneissl, appointed by the far-right Freedom Party (FPö), told the Krone tabloid it was “fiction” to claim that someone was not in a country until a positive asylum decision. “Whoever finds themselves on German sovereign territory is there,” she said. German interior minister Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian CSU who pushed for the deal, will explain the details on Thursday in Vienna.

Why did the CSU want this deal so badly?

Because it was on the refugee frontline in 2015 and fears its voters will punish it for falling in line behind Merkel’s open border policy. Though asylum applications have dropped – 68,000 so far this year compared to 746,000 in all of 2016 – the CSU demanded a symbolic law-and-order policy to win back voters from the far right.

Does Monday’s agreement mean it now becomes government policy?

Not yet. Dr Merkel’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) coalition partner opposed such camps three years ago and, on Tuesday, SPD federal justice minister Katarina Barley said the new plan “leaves more questions open than it answers”. Such camps are not part of their grand coalition agreement and are highly unpopular with SPD left-wingers. But there is little appetite in Berlin for another crisis or fresh elections after a six-month interregnum and a bad-tempered first 100 days in office.


What does the European Commission think of the German plan?

The EU executive, overseer of the Schengen free movement area, has to approve the plan too. It is critical of “temporary” border controls introduced at the height of the refugee crisis that are still in place. Any unilateral actions by member states, it fears, could trigger a ripple effect across the bloc and undermine free movement. On Tuesday, however, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was upbeat on the proposals saying that “at first glance” it appeared compliant with EU law.