German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her 2015 decision to admit hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country, saying protests and demonstrations would not change her liberal approach to the issue.
Merkel said on Sunday that she had made no mistake in opening Germany’s borders to refugees two years ago, when a flow from the war-torn countries of the Middle East began to hit the European shores.
More than a million people crossed into Germany in 2015 and most of them stayed in the country. Far-right nationalist sentiments increased in Germany after a series of attacks involving refugees. Merkel then began to feel the political costs when her conservative party suffered losses in regional elections. After that, the German chancellor allowed introducing a cap on the number of arrivals and negotiating deporting mechanisms for those refugees whose applications had failed.
”It was an extraordinary situation and I made my decision based on what I thought was right from a political and humanitarian standpoint,” Merkel told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Those kinds of extraordinary situations happen every once in a while in a country’s history.”
The flow of refugees into Germany only subsided in March 2016, when Merkel led a European Union agreement with Turkey to send back refugees reaching the coasts of Greece. Estimates say some 280,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year. The figure fell even further to about 106,000 in the first seven months of this year.
Merkel said in her Sunday interview that she would repeat making similar decisions about refugees if exposed to the same situation as 2015.
“I’d make all the important decisions of 2015 the same way again,” Merkel stated. “The head of government has to act and I did.”
Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office in the upcoming general elections in September.
A recent opinion poll by Emnid, a major pollster, says her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) would win 38 percent, 15 points ahead of the main center-left rival Social Democrats (SPD). The results of the survey show a better situation for the CDU compared to the polls in February, but they are still below its performance in the last elections in 2013, in which the party garnered 41.5 percent of the votes.