German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to close Germany's borders to refugees, and to reverse her current open-door policy, The Guardian reports.
Dobrindt, a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, said Germany can no longer show a "friendly face" to refugees as Merkel had suggested six months ago when arrivals began, and that if the number of refugees coming into the country did not start becoming smaller, Germany should close its own borders instead of waiting for a plan for the EU.
Bavaria, in southeast Germany, is the main point of entry for refugees. Around 1.1 million migrants entered Germany in 2015, with more expected to seek asylum in 2016. Many are fleeing from war zones in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Local authorities are struggling to find housing for the large number of refugees, Reuters reports.
A recent INSA poll in Germany's Bild newspaper indicated that support for Merkel's conservative bloc was down to 32.5 percent, the lowest that it has been since the 2013 election. The right-wing Alternative For Germany, known as AFD, which campaigns against refugees, was up in the poll, at 12.5 percent.
AFD's increase in popularity is attributed to worries about migrants, particularly in the aftermath of sexual assaults on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve, which have been largely blamed on refugees. Reuters reports that the AFD is likely to make large gains in German elections in March.
Merkel has said that she will "measurably reduce" the number of new arrivals in 2016, but she has stated that she will not introduce a cap, saying it would be impossible to enforce without closing off German borders. Instead, she has asked other countries in the EU to take in quotas of refugees to reduce the burden on Germany. She has also campaigned for reception centers to be built on Europe's borders.
Dobrindt disagreed with Merkel's idea that closing the German border would be negative for Europe. “The sentence, the closure of the border would see Europe fail, is true in reverse. Not closing the border, just going on, would bring Europe to its knees,” he said.
"There's a clear trend against conservatives in Germany," INSA chief Hermann Binkert told Bild. "Time is short to turn this sentiment [around] before the regional votes in March."