• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
'Limit refugee numbers or lose public support': President
German President Joachim Gauck (l) and a line of refugees on the Slovenian-Austrian border (r). Photos: DPA

'Limit refugee numbers or lose public support': President

AFP · 20 Jan 2016, 15:03

Published: 20 Jan 2016 15:03 GMT+01:00

"Limits are not unethical: they help to maintain acceptance within society," Joachim Gauck told the world's political and economic elite gathering at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

"Without acceptance, a society is not open and not willing to take in refugees," said Gauck, noting that this was why EU leaders are battling to stem the continent's biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War.

"A limitation strategy can be both morally and politically necessary to preserve the state's ability to function," said the former Protestant pastor.

"It may also be necessary in order to ensure that refugees receive all the assistance they require once they have arrived."

Debate is raging in Germany over the country's ability to cope with a record 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in 2015.

Austria brings in upper limit

It was stoked on Wednesday as neighbouring Austria announced that it would introduce a limit on the number of asylum seekers accepted in 2016 of 37,500 – less than half the number for 2015.

Gauck stressed however that for Germany, the drastic action of slamming the door shut to refugees - as sought by populists and the far-right - was not an option.

An isolation strategy is different from setting limits, he said, urging supporters of democracy to take ownership of the debate rather than give ground to the extremists.

"If democrats are unwilling to talk about limits, then they will be leaving the field to populists and xenophobes," he added.

In Germany, he said, the political debate is "very clear that we should expect some form of control and limits to kick in this year".

Merkel bets on EU measures

Like Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel has rebuffed calls to close the German borders.

Instead, she has pledged a "tangible reduction" of arrivals in coming months and is counting on a raft of measures at the national and EU level to deliver on that promise.

Story continues below…

These include reinforcing controls at the EU's external borders and getting other members of the bloc to take a bigger share of refugees.

Berlin is also tightening its scrutiny of asylum seekers by reintroducing individual interviews for all applicants, including Syrians, as well as ramping up the deportation process for those who have failed to win asylum.

Cases of deportations doubled in 2015 from a year ago, the interior ministry told AFP, with 21,000 forcibly removed from Germany last year.

After having already put several Balkan states on a list of "safe countries of origin", whose citizens are unlikely to gain refugee status. Berlin is now looking to add to the list several North African countries, like Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd