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Africa

Germany pushes for EU migrant policy change

media German Chancellor Angela Merkel. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Wednesday there would be no tolerance for anti-migrant violence after facing a far-right protest during a visit to a refugee centre. About 200 people massed in the eastern town of Heidenau, some booing and shouting "traitor, traitor" and "we are the mob" as she arrived at the shelter, in a show of defiance over a record influx of asylum-seekers.

Germany is at the forefront in developing new ways to tackle what analysts are calling the biggest migrant crisis since World War II.

“The majority of the Germans see that these people need help,” Orkan Kösemen, a project manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung NGO. “They know that Germany has enough economic power to take on refugees.

“The majority of the population, they’re not those protesters. But the numbers of refugees are high, and I suppose you can’t accept them every year. But still, we’re not in a situation where these protests are nationwide.”

It’s not the first time far-right supporters have taken to the street in protest at Merkel’s migration policy.

But Germany's policy is very different to that of Slovakia or Hungary, where the authorities are rushing to finish a wired fence on their border with Serbia.

“The situation today is much better that the situation we had in the beginning of the 90s, where many refugees who had to leave their country because of the civil war in the Balkans came to Germany,”  Professor Christine Langenfeld, the chairperson of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Immigration told RFI.

“We have radical right-wing politicians and criminals who are trying to take advantage of the situation,” she explains. “But at the moment a vast majority, and this is shown by polls, wants to help refugees. But they want that a distinction to be made between those who come for economic reason and those who really need protection.”

Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum applications this year and Merkel appears to be leading the way for other EU leaders on this issue .

She met French President François Hollande on Monday and called for the EU members to share the burden of migration in a fair way.

The two countries will draft common proposals which could include quotas and the construction of EU-run registration centres in Greece and Italy. This quota system was rejected by EU leaders a few months ago but Germany seems determined to push for it.

“The current asylum system, the Dublin system, where refugees can only ask for asylum in the first EU country that they enter, is not working any more even though this system, kept away many refugees from Germany,” explains Kösemen. “Secondly, she currently has enough political power to do so. If you look at other large European states, there governments face strong domestic political opposition on the issue of migration.”

The current EU asylum rules are called the Dublin regulations - under them, migrants can only apply for asylum in the first EU member state they enter, and face deportation if they try to apply in another.

Given the huge number of refugees arriving in Greece and Italy, that system does not work any more. That's why Germany has suspended that rule for Syrian refugees

Some, like migration expert Tim Finch, are calling for new rules.

In The Guardian newspaper he argues in favour of a system where refugees would apply for asylum from refugee camps outside Europe - and Europe would in return welcome more asylum seekers.

“This is a plan that I’m proposing without much optimism that it will be picked up,” Finch told RFI. “But I think over time we will move more in this direction. We have only two alternatives, either what we have now, which is allowing this chaos to persist, and in the end accepting that people will get through and giving some sort of status anyway. Or there’s what I’m proposing, which, to me, is very much better.”

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