German government presents overall strategy

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Refugee and asylum policy German government presents overall strategy

Another 3 billion euros for the federal states and local authorities. A total of 3,000 more jobs for the federal police force, agreement on safe countries of origin – these are at the heart of a package of measures on which the coalition has now agreed. The Chancellor also called for a "massive effort on the part of the European Union".

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Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel report to the press on the outcome of the coalition committee meeting.

"For the first time we have an overall strategy for the challenges facing us," said Angela Merkel

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

For the first time the German government has presented an overall strategy to deal with the rising influx of refugees, said Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint press conference with Federal Minster for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel. On Sunday night, the coalition committee agreed on the main lines of action to deal with the refugee issue.

At the start of her statement the Chancellor praised the enormous commitment of many different organisations, of the civil service and of the innumerable volunteers who have helped take care of arriving refugees, especially this last "moving, breath-taking" weekend.

Europe – a community of values

To master the enormous challenge, what is needed is above all a "massive effort on the part of the European Union" stressed the Chancellor. "We can only rise to this challenge with common European solidarity. Europe is a community of values," she said.

The international community will have to work "to fight the factors that cause people to flee in the first place. It will have to end civil wars and banish the threat of terrorism". The German government will step up its commitment to crisis resolution and prevention, announced Angela Merkel. This is the work of the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Development Ministry.

Dublin III applies to all EU member states

Coping with the refugees is a huge European challenge, stressed the Chancellor. "The values and the legal order of Europe must be our yardstick." In spite of the decisions at the weekend, Dublin III still applies she said. She has also discussed this with the Hungarian Prime Minister, she reported. "Dublin III applies to all member states of the European Union," she stressed. Germany and Austria agreed on Friday evening to take in refugees from Hungary because of the critical situation in Hungary.

At a special meeting on 14 September the ministers of home affairs and justice of the EU member states will be taking further decisions. The European Commission will also present proposals on Wednesday, announced Angela Merkel

Fair distribution of the burden across Europe

A task force under Luxembourg’s Presidency has discussed the construction of so-called "hotspots". "Time is of the essence. Urgent action is needed," said Angela Merkel. All EU member states are called on, she said, to put in place decent reception and registration facilities for those in need of protection.

It is important to distribute refugees fairly on the basis of solidarity. All EU member states must meet the standards for fair conditions, said Angela Merkel.

German government eases burden on federal states and local authorities

As regards the national duty, the Chancellor sees a "community of responsibility" that embraces the national, state and local governments. The German government will raise its spending by three billion euros, and make available another three billion euros to the federal states and local authorities. The details will be hammered out by 24 September.

The German government has an "ambitious time schedule". Before the end of October all necessary legislative measures will be taken, declared Angela Merkel. Asylum proceedings at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) are to be speeded up. Another 3,000 additional jobs will also be created for the federal police over the next three years, she reported.

Angela Merkel assured the federal states and local authorities of support in building 150,000 "initial reception centres offering decent conditions". The German government will make available federally owned properties, but also provide financial subsidies.

Eradicating unintended incentives

In the coalition committee it was important to make it quite clear that those in need must be afforded protection, said the Chancellor. "Those who have no prospects of being allowed to stay must leave our country again," she stated. For this reason the German government aims to eradicate unintended incentives, she explained. The need for cash at initial reception centres is to be eliminated as far as possible by providing assistance in kind. Cash payments should be made no more than one month in advance.

Supporting voluntary commitment

Angela Merkel announced that alternatives to asylum are to be created for asylum-seekers from safe countries of origin, like the western Balkan states. Anybody from these states who has a job or a training place should be allowed to take up the offer, said the Chancellor. Building social housing will also be very important, she added.

The German government will also support voluntary commitment. "At the moment we have a huge number of volunteers, but we will need commitment over a long period of time," said Angela Merkel. Another 10,000 jobs are to be created under the government’s voluntary service scheme.

Finally the Chancellor said, "What we are seeing now is something that will continue to be a challenge for our country in the years to come. It will change our country. And we want it to change for the better. We believe we can do so."

Confidence and realism

"This is one of the greatest challenges facing our country, and indeed the whole of Europe," added Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel. His impression is that the coalition is ready to tackle the task ahead with confidence and with realism. Every day people are demonstrating solidarity as they help those in need. "Germany is showing a side of itself of which it can rightly be proud."

Germany’s economic strength is one of the reasons why he is quietly confident that the country can cope with the task ahead, said Sigmar Gabriel. It was right and it was important to consolidate the budget. Without sound finances and a stable economy the country would not be able to find the additional billions of euros that are now needed.

It is not a small task. This has been clear from the outset, said the minister. Germany will manage to take in and integrate 800,000 refugees this year, he said. But this is not something that we can repeat every year. Sigmar Gabriel repeated his call, "We need a new European refugee policy." So far only Germany, Austria and Sweden have taken in large numbers of refugees.

Europe must set up hotspots and provide financial support for the countries affected. Something must also be done to put an end to the rising numbers of refugees from crisis affected areas. Many people are living in refugee camps in neighbouring states under very poor conditions – in Jordan and Lebanon for instance. Germany wants to help prevent these people also losing hope to the extent that they too try to make their way to Europe. But Europe and the international community must help, stressed the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs.

It is also important to keep Germany together, stressed Sigmar Gabriel. It is important to take away people’s concerns and their fears. And he pledged that the German government will continue to focus on the economic and cultural development of Germany as before.