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Germany to lock out migrants from July if new deal not found

Berlin, Monday

Germany’s interior minister vowed Monday to close the border to migrants by July if Angela Merkel fails to find solutions with European partners, but the chancellor rejected the threat.

Merkel said she would seek agreement with European nations at a June 28-29 EU summit, but stressed there was “no automatism” about rejecting asylum seekers if no deals are reached.

She also warned the minister, Horst Seehofer, against defying her, saying she is ultimately in charge of government policies.

But Seehofer, long one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal refugee policy, said Germany must change direction on immigration. “I cannot say that we have a grip on the issue,” he told a press conference after huddling with top brass of his CSU party.

He said he had only recently learnt that migrants who had already been denied asylum by Germany or been issued re-entry bans were still being allowed back in. “In essence, that is a scandal,” he said.

The arrival of more than a million asylum seekers to Germany since 2015 has deeply divided the country and propelled the far-right AfD into parliament for the first time in September’s general election.

Hardliners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the burning issue by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he would order border police to turn back migrants.

Three years after her decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and misery elsewhere, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU, her Bavarian allies, over her refugee policy.

Merkel’s woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy’s refusal this month to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock. Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals. —AFP

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