German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hours away from shutting the southern border to Austria at the start of the refugee crisis before changing her mind last minute, according to a new report.
Merkel opened Germany’s border to thousands of refugees stuck in Hungary with her iconic, “We can do this,” declaration in early September, 2015. She repeated the phrase several times as more than one million refugees arrived over the next year.
Welt am Sonntag now reports Merkel’s grand coalition decided to shut the gates and turn away refugees just a week after declaring the border open. Merkel, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Bavarian state Minister President Horst Seehofer and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier allegedly moved to close the border during a conference call Sept. 13.
Hundreds of officers were scheduled to arrive at the border the following day to turn away migrants. Merkel changed her mind last minute due to concerns regarding the press coverage she would face and the legality of the closure. None of the other ministers on the conference call were willing to claim responsibility either. Police were instead instructed to let everyone in, regardless of whether they had valid documents or not.
Germany’s interior ministry said it could “neither confirm nor deny” the report.
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