Merkel urges faster refugee deportations in U-turn
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sharpened her tone on the refugees seeking shelter in the European country, urging authorities to speed up the deportation of those denied asylum.
“The most important thing in the coming months is repatriation, repatriation and once more, repatriation,” Merkel told lawmakers of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) Party on Thursday.
The comments were an apparent U-turn from her open-door policy, which allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany last year.
Many refugees have so far been denied the rights of residency on the grounds that they would not be in danger if they returned to their own country.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday that this year, at least 100,000 refugees need to be deported. He said 21,000 refugees had been repatriated last year and 35,000 in the first seven months of this year.
Almost 1.1 million refugees, most of whom were fleeing war and violence in Iraq and Syria, arrived in Germany in 2015. Merkel had formerly pledged not to put quotas on the number of refugees entering her county.
Merkel’s so-called open-door policy, however, has cost the chancellor her popularity, with her approval rating sinking to a five-year low of 45 percent from 67 percent a year ago.
The leader, who has been in office for 11 years, now considers running for another term next year. Her critics say the administration has not made sufficient contribution to efforts for ending the crises in Syria and Iraq, which are among the main causes of the refugee influx in Europe.
Paris pursues closure of Calais ‘Jungle’
In France, thousands of refugees are living in a notorious camp in the northern town of Calais as they try to cross the underwater Channel Tunnel to reach Britain.
The camp is known as “Jungle” due to the appalling living conditions of asylum seekers.
On Thursdays, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve vowed to push for the closure of the site “with the greatest determination.”
Cazeneuve added that the camp would be dismantled in stages, while creating accommodation for thousands of refugees elsewhere in France.
France has repeatedly tried to shut down the site.
Earlier this year, local authorities cleared shelters in parts of the site in an effort to force the refugees to leave the camp. They forcibly evicted thousands of people from the place using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Reports said in March that more than three quarters of refugees and asylum seekers living in the Calais refugee camp had been subject to mistreatment at the hands of French police.