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Merkel announces hard- fought refugee deal

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Merkel announces hard- fought refugee deal
Merkel and Seehofer in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
17:25 CET+01:00
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she had wrangled her governing coalition into consensus over a new plan to hold refugees at EU borders before distributing them around the Union.

It was time to deal with the "nation-scale task" ahead of Germany, a task for which "the [Christian Democratic] Union is ready," Merkel said ahead of a meeting with her MPs in Berlin on Tuesday afternoon and a Thursday meeting with the leaders of Germany's federal states.

The Chancellor promised that in future, refugees would be registered and distributed fairly among European Union countries as they arrived at the Union's borders, rather than flowing straight through the visa-free Schengen zone.

Deportations would also be sped up for those whose asylum applications failed, while more would be done to secure the EU's external borders, Merkel added.

"I hope overall that in a few years, people in Germany will be able to say: They did it right back then, and we were able to manage it. And we're working very intensively towards that," she said.

Corralling party back together

"We have to agree. So that the public sees that the coalition partners are in a position to act in this historic project," said Bavarian state premier and refugees hardliner Horst Seehofer, who transmitted pressure from his own Christian Social Union (CSU) to the Chancellor in recent weeks.

But the show of unity between the two centre-right parties and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was not accompanied by any new details of how their differences had been resolved.

All Seehofer would say after the meeting with MPs was that the pair "had received the endorsement of the parliamentary group."

Questions for the SPD

The key point of contention has been so-called transit zones at Europe's borders – proposed border holding camps which supporters say could be used to process asylum seekers more efficiently, while opponents say they would effectively be giant prisons.

"We can set up the transit zones so that they work efficiently but don't look like prisons," was all Merkel's Chancellery chief and refugee tsar Peter Altmaier would tell Deutschlandfunk radio.

The CDU and CSU hope to use the transit zones to reduce the number of people whose asylum applications are certain to fail upon arriving in Germany – for example, those arriving from so-called 'safe countries of origin'.

A follow-up meeting to failed talks last weekend has been scheduled for next Sunday, where Merkel, Seehofer and SPD leader and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel will come together.

"Sometimes it's not all as dramatic as it reads [in the press]," Gabriel said at the German Industry Convention in Berlin, adding that he was in favour of realism in refugee policy rather than refusing to compromise.

Gabriel added that EU external border defence, plans for refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the EU's relationship with Turkey and a solution to the war in Syria all remained to be dealt with.

Meanwhile, Merkel also met with representatives from the Association of German Cities, who said there was still a lot to be done to give them the resources they needed to deal with the refugees.

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