by WorldTribune Staff, February 12, 2017
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has changed her mind and appears ready to send packing many of the migrants she once welcomed with open arms. As a parting gift, they will get some cash from the nation’s taxpayers.
Merkel, who is trailing in the polls in her bid for a fourth term, is said to be setting aside 90 million euros ($95.7 million) in taxpayers’ money for a fund which will pay migrants to withdraw their asylum applications and leave Germany voluntarily.
The handouts will be part of the Merkel government’s plan to speed up the removal of rejected asylum seekers. Tunisian migrant Anis Amri was awaiting deportation when he murdered a Polish lorry driver on Dec. 19, hijacked his vehicle and drove it into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 56 more.
Germany rejected 170,000 asylum claims in 2016. However, according to the Daily Mail, just 26,000 were repatriated and another 55,000 left voluntarily – apparently leaving 81,000 bogus applicants unaccounted for.
“We rely heavily on voluntary departures,” Merkel said in announcing the plan.
U.S. president Donald Trump said that Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” when she opened the doors to an unlimited number of migrants in 2015.
Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel later admitted that Merkel had underestimated how difficult it would be to integrate migrants on such a grand scale, and that Germany had been plunged into a kulturkampf, or “cultural war”, as a result.
Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament who has been nominated as the Social Democrat challenger to Merkel, said he backed the proposals to speed up deportations.
Schulz had previously insisted that “the people who are arriving [in Europe] are refugees who have been threatened [and] we should welcome them.”
As a leading figure in the European Union, Schulz was a strong supporter of migrant quotas despite strong opposition from central and eastern European member-state. Schulz hit out strongly at these countries in 2015, accusing them of “national egotism in its purest form.”
Polish interior minister Mariusz Blaszczak described Schulz’s words as “an example of German arrogance.”
Meanwhile, Schulz’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) have closed to within one percentage point of Merkel’s conservatives, a poll showed on Feb. 11, seven months before a pivotal federal election with EU-wide ramifications.
The SPD, Merkel’s junior coalition partners, would take 32 percent of the vote if an election were held today, an Emnid poll to appear in Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed.
It was the highest result for the SPD since April 2006, Bild am Sonntag said. Merkel’s conservatives remain at 33 percent.
The populist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is seen winning 10 percent to become the third largest party in the lower house, according to the Emnid poll. The hard-left Die Linke is at 8 percent.
In a direct vote, Schulz would beat Merkel by 46 percent to 40 percent, the poll found.