Merkel Coalition Finally Makes Immigration Deal, Scraps Transit Centers

Hanna Bogorowski | Reporter

Germany’s coalition of ruling parties finally reached an agreement on an immigration plan Thursday after weeks of drama and disagreements.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) along with her coalition partners of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SDP) agreed on a two-page package plan to handle asylum seekers who have already registered with other countries in the European Union.

Merkel’s political future was hindering on the completion of such a deal, as she was under intense pressure from both sides of the coalition to solve the issue or risk potentially dissolving her months-old coalition. (Merkel Makes Last Ditch Immigration Agreement, Coalition Government Survives For Now)

Interior Minister and head of the CSU Horst Seehofer brokered the former deal that involved opening transit centers around the German-Austrian border to curb secondary movements, in which asylum seekers apprehended at the border would be sent back to the country they’ve most recently been registered with.

Merkel and Seehofer seemed satisfied with this deal on Monday until the SDP squashed the proposal on Tuesday, disagreeing with the idea of holding immigrants in such centers. (Merkel’s Immigrant Woes Not Finished Yet, Hanging On Approval From Social Democrats, EU)

“Our resolution stands: we don’t want closed camps,” Lars Klinbeil, secretary general of the SDP, told the Rheinische Post newspaper after the meeting on Tuesday.

The new deal involves screening asylum seekers at existing police facilities for no more than 48 hours if they are unable to be transferred sooner to the Munich airport to be sent back to the country they were recently registered with, Reuters reported.

The asylum seekers will be sent back to the countries they came from, provided Germany has consent from that country. Spain and Greece have agreed to take such immigrants back, Merkel said, but Italy, the main arrival point for North Africa, has not yet made a deal with Germany on that front.

Andrea Nahles, leader of the SDP, hailed the new agreement as a win for her party, stressing that no new infrastructure sites would be set up, claiming they would be seen as internment camps.

Despite having to drop the transit centers, which was a crucial pitch for him just days ago, in which he even threatened to resign if he didn’t get his way, Seehofer claims he is “extremely satisfied” with the deal.

“With this, the entire coalition has committed to the goal to order, control and limit migration,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, general secretary of the CDU said.

poll for the broadcaster ARD released after the agreement was reached, however, showed continued frustration over the deal.

Almost 75 percent of those surveyed felt Seehofer had weakened the German conservative party by threatening to resign and putting such intense pressure on the issue.

Another 56 percent of Germans feel too much focus is being put on immigration in general, and it needs to be more evenly dispersed with other issues.

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