Merkel starting to feel immigration backlash in Germany

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By Robert Hackwill
Merkel starting to feel immigration backlash in Germany

A million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015, with the peak migration being reached in September, when Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to open the frontiers.

The Syrian drama produced an impressive wave of solidarity among Germans, with men, women and children being welcomed with open arms, without any limits, or any checks.

But this generosity was not unanimous. In Bavaria Horst Seehofer, head of the local government and the CSU party in government with Merkel’s CDU, demanded frontier controls in January, and a limit of 200,000 entries a year.

Then in July came four terror attacks in a single week. Three were committed by asylum seekers, and two of them were claimed by ISIL.

In a video posted by ISIL a young Afghan refugee claims he is a soldier of the Caliphate and promises to mount a knife attack. On the 18th July he injures four people on a train near Würzburg. He manages to escape, but is shot by police.

The author of the bomb attack on a bank in Ansbach on July 24 is a Syrian whose asylum demand was refused. His bomb only resulted in his death, and no-one else was hurt. Germany was deeply shocked by these attacks.

They only served to fuel the part of public opinion that was starting to swing against Angela Merkel’s asylum policy. Many voters got behind the upstart and xenophobic Alternative for Germany party, which made an electoral breakthrough in several regional elections.

The German authorities have made repeated appeals to the people not to associate migrants with terrorists, but admit that jihadist extremists could have entered the country as refugees.

But this has not made Merkel change her policy one iota.

“Terrorism is not a new problem that just arrived with the refugees,” she said recently. “But because not each individual refugee arrives here with good intentions we will continue to strengthen security at home. People here are entitled to expect that we do all that is humanly possible to protect their security.”

But the policy has already cost Merkel a slip in popularity along with her CDU party, with just a year to go before an election in 2017 when Merkel goes for a fourth mandate.