October 28, 2016

Merkel rejects calls to change Germany’s refugee policy after attacks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers remarks during a press briefing on domestic and foreign policy issues in Berlin on Thursday. PHOTO: EPA

Angela Merkel has rejected calls to reverse her welcoming stance towards refugees after a series of brutal attacks in the country.

The German chancellor told reporters the assailants “wanted to undermine our sense of community, our openness and our willingness to help people in need. We firmly reject this.”

Merkel, who interrupted a summer holiday at her cottage north of Berlin to give a press conference in the capital, told reporters four assaults within a week were “shocking, oppressive and depressing” but not a sign that authorities had lost control.

“Taboos of civilisation are being broken,” she said, referring to a series of deadly attacks in France, Belgium, Turkey and the US state of Florida as well as Germany. “These acts happened in places where any of us could have been.”

She repeated her rallying cry from last year when she opened the borders to people fleeing war and persecution, many from Syria, which brought nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees to the country in 2015.

“I am still convinced today that ‘we can do it’ – it is our historic duty and this is a historic challenge in times of globalisation,” she said. “We have already achieved very, very much in the last 11 months.”

Germany has been rocked by a wave of attacks, including a mass shooting in Munich that left nine dead, an axe attack on a train in which four people were seriously injured, a machete attack in which a pregnant woman was murdered, and a suicide bomb blast in which 12 people were injured.

Three of the four attackers were asylum seekers, and two of the assaults were claimed by Islamic State.

While the German political class has largely called for calm, opposition parties and rebels from Merkel’s own conservative bloc have accused her of exposing the country to an unacceptable level of risk without stricter controls on new arrivals.

“Islamist terrorism has unfortunately arrived in Bavaria,” the state’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said on Thursday, renewing calls by his Christian Social Union party for an upper limit on new asylum seekers let into Germany. “We are awaiting urgent action from the federal government and Europe – now is the time to act.”

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