Merkel told reporters in Berlin that people fleeing Afghanistan should be helped first and foremost in neighbouring countries in coordination with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.
“Then we can think about, as a second step, whether especially affected people can be brought to Europe in a controlled way,” she said after talks with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
She acknowledged deep, longstanding divisions within the EU on the subject of asylum, calling a “weakness” of the 27-member bloc “which we have to work on in earnest”.
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Merkel’s comments came as Germany tried to establish an “airlift” to ferry German citizens and hundreds of Afghan local staff who worked with them out of Kabul to safety.
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French President Emmanuel Macron said late Monday that his country, Germany and other EU nations would put together a response that was “robust, coordinated and united” to prevent irregular migration by harmonising criteria and showing European solidarity.
“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds,” he said.
But Macron stressed that France would continue to do “its duty to protect those who are most under threat in Afghanistan”.
Merkel’s comments come as Germany campaigns for a general election on September 26th amid fears by leading candidates of a possible refugee influx echoing the one that dominated headlines in 2015-16 which brought more than one million people to the country and upended domestic politics.
Merkel has called her welcoming stance then a “singular” event due to a “humanitarian emergency” and vowed in the face of a right-wing backlash that it would remain a one-off.
Her party’s candidate to succeed her, Armin Laschet, has warned since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Sunday that “2015 must not be repeated”.