In the struggle for greater limits on migration to Germany, calls for cross-party action are becoming louder – but the debate is also becoming increasingly heated. Representatives of the federal government and the Union called on each other to find common solutions over the weekend; in the traffic light coalition, the FDP attacked the Greens. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) committed to the fundamental right to asylum. However, he held out the prospect of possible additional measures on the border with Poland and called for more effective deportations.

“There are a lot of people coming to Europe and Germany, and the number has increased dramatically,” said Scholz yesterday at an SPD rally in Nuremberg. He called the situation “difficult.” Saying this is essential and right in a society that freely discusses problems. “Germany is committed to the right to asylum,” he emphasized. Anyone who comes and cannot rely on reasons for protection or who has committed crimes in this country must be repatriated. For this purpose, it has been agreed with the states that their responsible authorities can be reached 24 hours a day. Not everyone has implemented this yet, but they are on the way. “This will help.”

German borders in focus

The Union is demanding that controls be introduced at the borders to the east, as at the German-Austrian border. Scholz called for clarification about irregularities in the issuing of visas in Poland. “I don’t want Poland to simply wave us through and then have a discussion about our asylum policy afterwards.”

It must be the case “that whoever arrives in Poland is registered there and goes through an asylum procedure there” – and visas that are not distributed for money increase the problem. Scholz made it clear that this should be discussed with the Polish government. And depending on the situation, “further measures may then have to be taken at the borders, for example at this one.” There are also discussions with the Czech Republic.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, “additional border police measures” are currently being examined. Department head Nancy Faeser (SPD) told “Welt am Sonntag” when asked whether there would be short-term stationary border controls in Poland and the Czech Republic: “In my view, this is an opportunity to combat smuggling crime more aggressively.” However, the protection of the EU’s external borders remains crucial.

Faeser rejects CSU boss Markus Söder’s suggestion of an annual upper limit for refugees. International law speaks against this, said Faeser in the evening on the ARD program “Anne Will”. Among other things, she referred to the Geneva Refugee Convention. With upper limits you only deceive people into thinking that something is getting better. “The only thing that will really help is a European solution,” said Faeser. There needs to be more distribution from the EU. The municipalities are at their limits.

The Bavarian Prime Minister Söder had discussed an “integration limit” for the admission of refugees of around 200,000 people. In the program “Anne Will” he reiterated that the number 200,000 was a benchmark “in which integration in our country can still be successful.”

Call der Union

There are already approaches for broader regulations on migration. Scholz also suggested it as a topic for a “Germany Pact”. The Union complains that nothing came of it after that. CDU leader Friedrich Merz addressed the Chancellor at the CSU party conference: “Let’s do it together, and if you can’t do it with the Greens, then throw them out and we’ll do it with you.” The problem must be solved because there are “explosives for cohesion”.

The subtle hint of a possible government breach is unlikely to have appealed to the Chancellor. Regardless, Scholz made it clear that CDU-governed countries in coalitions with the Greens would not find it easy to agree to safe countries of origin in the Federal Council. “Now you have the opportunity to say yes to two more countries.” This is about Georgia and Moldova.

CDU General Secretary Carsten Linnemann advocated in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” to “seek solidarity across all parties.” What is needed is “a consensus like in 1993”. At that time, following a compromise between the black-yellow government and the opposition SPD, the basic right to asylum was restricted. CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt told the TV station Phoenix that there was a majority in the Bundestag with the Union for decisions to stop illegal migration.

Movement for asylum consensus?

Signals also came from the coalition. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) told the editorial network Germany: “If we don’t want right-wing populism to exploit this issue, then all democratic parties are obliged to help find solutions.” At a Green party conference in Schleswig-Holstein yesterday, he explained: “What we have to do are concrete measures that help people and help communities.”

FDP leader Christian Lindner took up Habeck’s and the Union’s statements and advocated taking advantage of the opportunity. “For changes that could affect the Basic Law, we need an overarching consensus,” wrote the finance minister on the X platform (formerly Twitter). And, like the CDU, emphasized: “We need a change in migration policy like the asylum compromise in the early 1990s.”

At the same time, FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai tightened his tone towards his government partner: “Whether with reforms at the European level or with the classification of safe countries of origin: The Greens are a security risk for the country in migration policy and, through unrealistic positions, make consistent government action and cross-party action more difficult Solutions,” he told the German Press Agency. There is an urgent need for a rethink here.

No easy solutions

The SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil objected to “acting as if there was a magic measure”. That delivers a populist headline, but doesn’t mean that even one less person comes to Germany, he told “Bild am Sonntag”. Klingbeil spoke out in favor of faster procedures so that refugees have clarity as to whether they can stay and work – or have to leave again. Green parliamentary group leader Irene Mihalic expressed doubts about the practicality of stationary border controls. “Because they would be very personnel-intensive,” she told the “Tagesspiegel”.

Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) described Klingbeil’s statements as “completely unbelievable” as long as the federal government continues to deny the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees “the urgently needed reinforcement of personnel.” Asylum procedures should only last three months, but due to the high number of asylum applications, the average duration of the procedure is currently closer to seven months and the trend is increasing. “Germany needs concrete actions instead of just empty words. The federal government must finally do everything it can to get to the root of the major problems of the current migration situation,” he told the German Press Agency in Munich.

There have recently been increasing warnings of overload from states and municipalities. By the end of August, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees registered more than 204,000 initial applications for asylum – an increase of 77 percent compared to the same period last year. With follow-up applications decreasing, there have been 220,000 applications so far in 2023, an increase of 66 percent. In addition, more than a million people came from Ukraine because of the war and do not have to apply for asylum.