Sarah Marsh and Andreas Rinke, Reuters, November 7, 2023
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, seeking to reduce the number of asylum seekers and stem support for the far-right, agreed on a tougher migration policy and new funding for refugees with the heads of Germany’s 16 states early on Tuesday.
Scholz’s government has agreed measures to make it easier to deport migrants and to make the country a less attractive destination in the first place, in stark contrast to Berlin’s perceived open-door policy under former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Our shared goal is to push back irregular migration,” said Scholz, after describing the agreement as a “historic moment”.
The federal government also agreed to look into whether asylum procedures could be carried out outside the European Union, though Scholz expressed scepticism on whether that was constitutionally possible and if countries would agree to it.
Concern about irregular migration in Germany has increased as numbers requesting asylum have risen, boosted by the one million Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the country after Russia began its war in February last year.
Some 230,000 people requested asylum in Germany in the first nine months of 2023, more than in the full year 2022, although far less than in 2016-17.
The far-right Alternative for Germany, now second in nationwide polls ahead of all three parties in Scholz’s centre-left coalition, was the first party to tap into concerns about migration.
Scholz told parliament last month that the country’s democratic forces needed to rally together to tackle issues such as migration to counter the “so-called ‘Alternative’ that is in reality a demolition commando”.