Facing growing pressure to resign over her increasingly unpopular welcoming policy towards migrants, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave ground Saturday by saying migrants from Syria and Iraq would have to go home as soon as wars in those countries have ended.
“We need … to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that once there is peace in Syria again, once [ISIS] as been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained,” Merkel told a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on Saturday, according to Reuters. Merkel likened the situation to the arrival of refugees from war-torn Yugoslavia in the 1990s. About 70 percent of those refugees returned home when the war ended, she said.
Despite being in charge of the conservative CDU, Merkel has been one of the most aggressive European leaders when it comes to welcoming migrants and asylum seekers from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. An astonishing 1.1 million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015. Recently, scandal has erupted after the revelation that police in Cologne initially covered up a wave of organized, migrant-related thefts and sexual assaults during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The German public is increasingly dissatisfied, with a recent poll showing 40 percent of Germans wanted her to resign over her refugee policy. It’s also causing division within Merkel’s own party, with the leader of its sister Christian Social Union (CSU) party threatening to sue the government if doesn’t act to stem the rush of migrants.
Merkel’s policies have also fueled the rise of Alternative for Germany, an anti-refugee party that is now polling as the third most-popular in Germany’s crowded party system. That party’s leader said in a new interview that, if necessary, German border police should shoot at migrants trying to force their way into the country.
Merkel’s new concession is likely intended to tamp down the growing backlash, but it’s also quite vague. In Iraq, the country has endured conflict in varying degrees of intensity for 13 years now, and even the defeat of ISIS will not necessarily result in a conventional lasting peace. A similar situation could occur in Syria.
Even if ISIS ceases to exist as a “state,” like it currently does, it could maintain a sizable network of violent extremists who launch attacks. So when, exactly, the two countries will be peaceful enough to justify deporting migrants is unclear.
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