Germany has been struggling to accommodate the 1.1 million migrants who entered its open borders in 2015. The nation’s labour minister has warned refugees that they must assimilate or lose their benefits.
On Jan. 31, German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles penned an op-ed in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, signaling that the government was cracking down on migrants who refuse to adapt to their European host, Business Insider reports.
Nahles wrote that “all people who live in Germany, no matter what their ethnic origin, must make an effort, seek work and support themselves and their families as well as they can.”
If migrants refuse to make an effort in following German law and learning their language, Nahles warns that “we will cut benefits to those who signal that they do not want to integrate.”
The German government has not signaled that they will adopt the policies of Denmark and Switzerland, countries that have been seizing valuables from asylum seekers to help pay for their benefits.
However, Nahles’ warning indicates that Germany’s benefits paid out to migrants will come with strings attached.
In 2015, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said that asylum seekers fleeing the war-torn nations of Iraq and Syria were welcome. Now, following the Dec. 31, 2015 Cologne incident, the German government’s tone has changed, New York Magazine reports.
“This is a temporary residential status,” Merkel told her Christian Democratic Union party members. “We expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once IS (Islamic State group) has been defeated in Iraq, that you can go back to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained.”
Merkel’s evolving stance on asylum seekers is in response to public pressure against her immigration policy. 40 percent of Germans are calling for the Chancellor’s resignation after Cologne, when a group of rowdy migrants assaulted hundreds of women at the town’s train station, in most cases sexually.
Some of the attackers have been identified as recent North African and Middle Eastern immigrants, plummeting the country’s public opinion of asylum seekers.
“Cologne changed everything,” said conservative party member Volker Bouffier, according to Al Jazeera America.
Many Germans were uneasy about the massive influx of asylum-seekers but now thousands are protesting the migrants’ alleged lack of respect for citizens.
Merkel has pledged to punish and deport asylum seekers who break the law.