Patrick Donahue et al., Bloomberg, August 24, 2015
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande condemned anti-immigrant riots in Germany, while pressing all European Union countries to help deal with the continent’s tide of refugees.
Meeting for the first time after the political summer break, the leaders of Europe’s two biggest economies elevated the refugee crisis to a top priority Monday, placing it alongside challenges such as the conflict in Ukraine.
“There are moments in European history when we face exceptional circumstances, and these are exceptional circumstances that will last,” Hollande said alongside Merkel before they met for talks in Berlin. “So rather than wait and then cope on a day-to-day basis, we must get organized and strengthen our policies.”
With Germany expecting as many as 800,000 people fleeing war and poverty to arrive this year, street violence and arson attacks on empty asylum shelters are raising pressure on Merkel to find solutions and take a stand. After police guarding a refugee shelter were attacked by protesters for three consecutive nights, she condemned the outbreak of “anti-immigrant hatred” in the town of Heidenau near Dresden.
“The way in which right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis voice blunt expressions of hate is repugnant,” Merkel said. “But it’s just as shameful the way citizens, and even families with children, support these things through collaboration.”
Merkel and Hollande sought a joint position for tackling the crisis, saying the burden of aiding refugees needs to be shared fairly among the 28 EU countries. Both pressed the EU to set up registration centers for refugees and asylum seekers in countries such as Greece and Italy.
Germany’s annual cost of caring for refugees may be 10 billion euros ($11.6 billion) this year, compared to 2 billion euros in 2014, Die Zeit reported, citing its own calculation based on an estimated 800,000 arrivals.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel rearranged his schedule to visit Heidenau, where demonstrators shot fireworks and lobbed bottles at police over the weekend after a rally against a former home-improvement store serving as a refugee shelter. More than 30 police officers have been injured, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.