The numerous refugees overwhelm cities and communities. CDU boss Merz wants to drive the traffic lights in front of him with the topic – but also find solutions with her.
At the beginning of January, Friedrich Merz let a test balloon rise. In Markus Lanz’s talk show, the CDU leader called migrant children “little pashas”. A wave of indignation swept through the country: is such a prominent politician allowed to make such derogatory and sweeping judgments, doesn’t he have to be more precise? The outcry was short and violent. But Merz had achieved his goal: integration was set as a topic of conversation and political controversy.
The opposition leader’s first attempt to put the issue on the agenda failed last September. When Friedrich Merz accused some Ukrainian refugees of “social tourism,” the disparaging judgment flew in his face.
The lesson that Merz was able to draw from this: the population apparently differentiates between Ukrainians who have been bombed out of their country, which is not too far away and who are believed to be able to integrate without major problems, and refugees from more distant regions, about whom some people are rather skeptical whether the integration really works.
The Union is now dealing with the subject in a correspondingly differentiated manner.
She has drawn up a position paper entitled “For Humanity and Order in Asylum and Refugee Policy”. The tenor: the humanitarian responsibility for those in need of protection must be met, but irregular migration must be controlled and limited – nationally, at European level and internationally. Yes, immigration into the labor market, but with a strict separation of asylum procedures and immigration.
Number of asylum applications increases
And what are the facts? More than a million refugees from Ukraine have come to Germany since the beginning of the war. Last year, a good 244,000 asylum applications were made in Germany. Those seeking protection come from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq. A good half of the requests were granted. The number of asylum applications has been increasing again since 2020, but is lower than in the refugee crisis of 2015/16.
Merz interprets these numbers as follows: “Up to 200,000 people per year are considered compatible, capable of integration,” he said on Wednesday evening at a CDU event in Berlin. Around 30,000 people are currently coming to Germany every month. “By the end of the year there will be more than 300,000. That’s too much.” That’s why he demanded: “We have to limit irregular immigration to Germany more.”
His messages are clear: “Set up reception centers at Europe’s external borders, protect them better and make German police forces available for them.” And Merz’ ultima ratio is: “Controls at the European internal borders, there is no other way.”
Merz responds with a “municipal summit”
The political debate contrasts with the reality in the municipalities, which have to deal with the accommodation and integration of the migrants. And who feel let down by the federal government. Protests in the Mecklenburg village of Upahl against a planned refugee shelter, for example, or the much-noticed call for help from the Greens district administrator Jens Marco Scherf make it clear that the country is seething.
This Thursday, Friedrich Merz wants to show that he takes the concerns and problems of local politicians seriously – unlike the federal government, which in the eyes of the opposition has so far only held largely fruitless summits. Under the motto “We are listening”, the Union faction invited district administrators and mayors from all over Germany. A good 200 local politicians from all parties have agreed to attend. Friedrich Merz – the caretaker.
Achim Brötel from the Neckar-Odenwald district in Baden-Württemberg has also accepted. First of all, he was happy that it was really a summit, he told t-online. “As is well known, the Federal Chancellor preferred to visit a bakery in Hanover on February 16. That was the pinnacle for me!”
The CDU district administrator did not come to Berlin because it is about an event held by his party: “One person alone will certainly not be able to save the world.” But it’s about “forging coalitions beyond party political considerations.” He therefore hopes “that the opposition will take very concrete parliamentary initiatives that the government factions can no longer duck.”
Rain of money doesn’t solve problems
Brötel is disappointed with the previous measures taken by the federal government to support the municipalities in coping with the influx of refugees. In the current situation, money does not solve any problems, but rather covers them up. “Even if it rained gold tomorrow, we wouldn’t have a single person on hand to face all the challenges.” Money also does not make additional communal accommodation or an apartment available in a timely manner and does not create additional daycare or school places for the children of refugees. “All these systems have no more reserves.”