German Chancellor Angela Merkel has once again defended her stance on allowing asylum seekers into Germany despite her party’s loss at local elections apparently over the government’s refugee policy.
“I consider the fundamental decisions as right, but there is much to be done to win back trust and the topic of integration will play a huge role, as well as the repatriation of those who don’t gain residency rights,” Merkel said during a speech in the lower house of the German parliament in the capital Berlin on Wednesday.
The remarks came just three days after a stunning defeat suffered by her party, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), from an anti-refugee party in regional elections.
On Sunday, Merkel’s CDU party fell to third place after the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in her home state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) gained the first place in the contest, according to exit polls.
Merkel said her government has expedited integration measures for those refugees who are granted asylum, including by raising school funding to help their education and by trying to find solutions for local problems through working with cities and states.
“The situation today is many times better than a year ago, but there remains a lot to do,” she said.
Merkel has been under fire at home since last year, when she opened the country’s borders to the massive influx of asylum seekers, mostly fleeing violence in Middle Eastern and African states.
Horst Seehofer, the leader of CSU and the Bavarian state premier, described the situation as “highly threatening for the union,” saying the people do not support “this Berlin policy.
Seehofer, a long-time critic of Merkel’s refugee policy, added that confidence in the government of Merkel “is dwindling rapidly.”
Merkel herself acknowledged that the decisions on refugees played a role in the election results, but insisted that she has made the right ones.
Letting people in, but then sending them back
While insisting on the policy of letting in the refugees, the German government has nevertheless stressed the quick deportation of those arrivals who are found unfit for asylum.
Last week, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced that at least 100,000 refugees need to be deported in 2016. He said 21,000 refugees had been repatriated last year and 35,000 in the first seven months of this year.
Some 1.1 million refugees had arrived in Germany in 2015.
The German leader, who has been in office for 11 years, now considers running for another term next year.