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Merkel Reeling After Refugee Policy Damages Her Standing Among Germans

Not long ago, refugees were chanting her name, and proud Germans said she had taken on the role of humanitarian leader by opening the country's borders and welcoming people fleeing war-torn countries.

Now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces her lowest approval ratings in almost half a decade, Reuters reported, and some pundits say her position may be endangered as the refugee crisis threatens to destabilize Europe.

Only 46 percent of Germans support Merkel, according to a new poll released by the public broadcaster ARD Feb. 3, down from 75 percent less than a year ago. The refugee crisis, and how Merkel has handled it, was the primary issue for people who participated in the survey, Reuters notes.

There's more bad news for Merkel and her allies: A poll by the German magazine Focus found that 40 percent of Germans say Merkel should resign for her refugee policy and handling of the crisis, according to a separate article from Reuters.

Merkel's diving poll numbers, and Germans' widespread dissatisfaction with the refugee situation, are compounded by the unprecedented, coordinated sexual assaults on women in Cologne during the New Year celebration.

As many as 1,000 "drunk and aggressive young men" participated in the New Year attacks, according to the BBC. The suspects, who were described as refugees and immigrants, reportedly raped at least one woman and sexually molested and robbed many others.

Additional reports in the fallout blamed police, saying they weren't deployed in enough numbers to stop the assaults and pointing to similar, smaller-scale incidents in cities like Hamburg. Tensions were further inflamed by the reactions of some Muslim German leaders, including an imam who said the sexual assaults "were the girls own fault, because they were half naked and wearing perfume," according to Inquisitr. A Muslim group also demanded Germany ban alcohol, while adding that German women "should think about whether it is wise to lightly dressed and drunk, to go between hordes of drunken men," Opposing Views reported.

The attacks led to mass protests by German natives and renewed calls to close the country to refugees.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a longtime Merkel ally, defended the chancellor's decision to welcome refugees, Reuters reported.

"I think we have done the right thing," Schaeuble said on Jan. 3, adding that Germany has a special responsibility to tackle humanitarian crises because of its dark past.

It remains to be seen how the refugee crisis will impact Germany's elections in March.

Sources: Reuters [2], BBC, Inquisitr, Opposing Views /  Photo source: Wikimedia Commons (2)

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