Merkel allies step up pressure to cap refugees in Germany
German Bavarian Landshut district administrator Peter Dreier speaks to reporters in front of the chancellery in Berlin on January 14, 2016, after he chartered a bus to take 31 refugees from the Bavarian city of Landshut to the chancellery. (AFP/John MacDougall)
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Politicians within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance are planning to sign a letter airing their grievances in relation to her open-door refugee policies, dpa learned Friday.
The letter, which will not be made public, is expected to land on the chancellor's desk next week, and brings together policy suggestions from party members in various parliamentary groups.
The alliance of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party from the southern state of Bavaria has been strained by the policies that saw 1.1 million refugees enter Germany in 2015.
The Christian Social Union (CSU) has been particularly vocal in calling for a cap on the number of new arrivals in 2016.
Dissenting voices have also suggested turning some refugees back at the border, with the tabloid Bild reporting lawmakers would push for a vote on the issue at their next joint meeting on January 26. A similar vote failed at the CDU party conference in December.
At the same conference and at a party meeting last week, Merkel received overwhelming support for her policies from her party colleagues.
She has also pledged to reduce the number of refugees by dealing with the reasons people flee in the first place and by pushing for a fairer distribution of refugees within the EU.
Critics say she is not moving quickly enough. On Tuesday, participants at a meeting of the conservative alliance spoke of a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate on the subject of refugees.
Separately, a Bavarian politician associated with the Free Voters political group, decided to bring the issue right to Merkel's door.
Peter Dreier brought a group of 31 Syrian refugees aged between 21 and 45 on the 550-kilometre journey from his rural south-eastern district of Landshut to Berlin on a bus Thursday evening, but failed to get a meeting with the chancellor.
The group departed again early Friday after a night in a hotel on the northern outskirts of Berlin, Dreier's spokesman told dpa.
Two of the group did not return: one refugee elected to stay in Berlin and another planned to travel on to the north-western port city of Bremen, the spokesman said.
The group consisted of men whose applications for asylum are pending and who no longer qualify for government-provided refugee accommodation and must find their own place to live.
Dreier arranged the publicity stunt out of "desperation" to highlight the fact that his district had nowhere for the refugees to live. His action drew criticism from Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller, who dubbed it "an erosion of solidarity."