Germany is rowing back pretty hard on ‘open arms’ migrant policy

September 25, 2015, 9:51 AM UTC
Germany Continues To Take In New Migrants
SCHOENEFELD, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 24: Migrants prepare to board buses that will take them to shelters after they disembarked from a government-chartered train that brought them from Bavaria on September 24, 2015 near Berlin in Schoenefeld, Germany. Germany is continuing to accept throusands of new migrants daily, many of them arriving via Austria and the Balkans, and is distributing them to shelters nationwide. Germany authorities are expecting to receive up to one million asylum applicants this year. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Photograph by Sean Gallup — Getty Images

Angela Merkel’s reflexive decision to encourage refugees and migrants to come to Germany is coming back to haunt her.

The de facto leader of the European Union is getting criticism from even her closest allies, her country struggles to come to terms with the sheer scale of the inflow of people.

Last night, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere became the latest and most senior figure in her government yet to criticise the Chancellor’s policy, telling national TV that “the situation got out of control with the decision to bring the people in Hungary over to Germany.”

“It was such a big number that things couldn’t be kept orderly,” de Maizière told talk show host Maybrit Illner. “We’re now in the process of bringing things back under control.”

Merkel had wanted to show moral leadership after shocking viral pictures of a drowned Kurdish refugee boy highlighted Europe’s failure to manage the humanitarian crisis on its doorstep.

But after an emotional wave of popular support, opinions have started to turn as the cost and difficulty of absorbing the inflow becomes clear. De Maizière gave the order to reintroduce border controls in Germany for the first time in nearly 20 years earlier this month, while Merkel on Tuesday night forced through a plan at E.U. to ensure that not all of the 120,000 refugees and migrants currently backed up at choke-points in Greece, Italy and Hungary end up in Germany.

Merkel has had to face sharp criticism from the leaders of Hungary, Croatia and others closer to home after seeming to encourage a flow of people across their territory.

Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian CSU, which is a sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats but which generally takes a much tougher line on immigration, ruffled Merkel’s feathers earlier this week by sharing a podium with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is building border fences as fast as he can to keep out “an Islamic flood of millions.”

But to see De Maizière distancing himself from Merkel is another thing entirely. He’s been one of her most loyal and reliable allies for over a decade–having been chief of staff and Minister for Special affairs during her 10-year rule.