MONTHS after she was accused of ‘opening the floodgates’ for mass migration to Germany, Angela Merkel said she wants to stem the flow of refugees into the European Union (EU).
The German chancellor seemed to perform a U-turn on her previous stance, saying the numbers of those let in should be reduced while open borders can remain in operation.
Her comments were made days after Denmark imposed passport checks on people entering from Germany.
“It is very important to me that we achieve both a noticeable reduction in the flow of refugees … and at the same time preserve the free movement of people within the European Union,” she told reporters at a conference of her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The ‘Schengen zone’ allows free movement across 26 European countries, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
But as migrants streamed across the eurozone countries some began putting up borders to halt the influx and many feared it could spell the end for Schengen.
ermany’s northern neighbour Denmark imposed temporary border checks on Monday, fearing that it would become the final destination for many refugees after Sweden put in place controls to stop them moving further north.
Mrs Merkel was named Person of the Year by both Time magazine and the Financial Times after opening Germany’s borders to refugees in August, but the resulting wave of migrants has stretched resources and unnerved many citizens.
UKIP’s Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall said: “The bulk of the problem has been created by Merkel in the first place, so to hear her say more needs to be done to solve the problem is nothing more than a hugely unfunny joke.
“She has prioritised her obsession with preserving the EU project above the security and safety her own people and those of other EU countries by ignoring successive warnings even from her own officials that one-in-three refugees claiming to be from Syria are carrying fake passports and could be a terrorist or criminal.
“She refused to listen to reason that not screening refugees properly is irresponsible and dangerous, as we have seen by recent events.
“The horrifying sex attacks in Cologne were entirely preventable and she is now trying to hide the fact that her policies contributed to them, by sounding tough and hoping we forget that actions speak louder than words.
“Denmark and Sweden have now decided to reinstate passport controls because of the mess Merkel has caused, and her own voters are giving up on her by their millions.
“The horse has bolted to control the flow of refugees into the EU, and despite this latest slight-of-hand from the German Chancellor the horse has bolted on saving her own political career.”
After marking a decade in office in November, Mrs Merkel starts 2016 under pressure from her own conservatives to reduce the influx of asylum seekers arriving in Germany, after a record inflow of over one million last year sapped support.
The Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that a record 476,000 migrants applied for asylum last year, with the applications of another 600,000 registered migrants yet to be collected.
Despite vowing last month to reduce the numbers, Mrs Merkel is under pressure from the CSU, Bavarian sister party of her Christian Democrats (CDU), to do more. CSU leader Horst Seehofer has demanded a cap of 200,000 migrants a year.
Support for her party was at a three-year low of 36 per cent in October and November, it has begun to pick up.
Last October, she offered to help Turkey’s bid to join the EU in return for cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants and taking back those rejected by Europe.
However, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday that a drop in arrivals in December was due to rough seas, not efforts by Turkey to prevent departures.
Mrs Merkel has previously resisted calls from some conservatives to close Germany’s borders or cap the number of arrivals, many of whom are fleeing war in the Middle East or Afghanistan.
She argues the influx must be tackled outside Germany, through negotiations to resolve the war in Syria, by encouraging Turkey to improve conditions for refugees there, and by convincing European partners to accept quotas of asylum seekers.
Police closed off the main entrance to Mrs Merkel’s office in Berlin on Wednesday after a suspicious object was reported, but they found nothing dangerous.
A sniffer dog alerted officials during a routine check of mail arriving at the chancellery in the morning, but explosives experts declared it safe later in the day.