Germany is showing signs of fatigue toward refugees after three years of a controversial open-borders policy by Chancellor Angela Merkel that drew more than 1.5 million people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other troubled nations.
The country took in more refugees during that period than the other 27 members of the European Union, the United States and Canada combined. It spends more than $30 billion per year for such services as state-financed apartments or shelters, healthcare and monthly cost-of-living allowances of up to $400 per person.
But the humanitarian approach by Merkel, arguably Europe’s most influential leader, put strains on Germany and resulted in tension with other members of the EU despite some signs of assimilation and entrepreneurship.
“What’s important is that Germany and other EU countries send signals that those who do not need asylum protection – in other words, a majority of those coming – should not even embark on these dangerous journeys because the chances of them being sent back home will be high,” said Gerald Knaus, director of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) in Berlin, a think tank.
Merkel, who announced in October under political pressure that she would relinquish control of her center-right party this week and not stand for another term as chancellor in 2021, has remained unapologetic about her September 2015 decision despite its having become a political liability. It helped fuel a populist far-right movement known as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that has siphoned away support from conservatives.