Not welcome anymore!
Nearly four years after almost one million refugees were welcomed into the country, Germany has quietly been closing the window on asylum applications and ramping up deportations. This trend has continued even as the number of people arriving in Europe has dropped 80 per cent since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, according to the UN. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that in 2018, Germany received about 185,000 asylum applications, a drop of 17 per cent from last year, and far fewer than the 2015 peak of 890,000. Last year, more than 8,000 people were sent back to the European Union states they first arrived in. The deportation numbers conjointly reveal how EU countries continue to squabble over who should be responsible for incoming asylum-seekers. More than 30 per cent were repatriated back to Italy, for example, but Greece refused to accept the majority of transfer requests from Germany, and Hungary accepted none at all. The figures also give some indication of Germany's shift away from the "Wilkommenskultur" or "welcome culture" that greeted refugees in 2015 when Chancellor Angela Merkel famously rallied Germans with the phrase "Wir Schaffen Das" or "We can do it." Since then, the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has surged in the polls. Several high-profile crimes involving migrants have shifted public opinion, particularly the 2015-16 New Year's Eve mass sexual assault in Cologne in which scores of women were attacked by gangs of "North African men," according to police. Last summer, violent street protests erupted in the East German town of Chemnitz after a local man was stabbed to death by two migrants. The public backlash has pushed Germany's centrist parties to crack down on immigration, particularly Merkel's Christian Democrat Union and its Bavarian sister party, Christian Social Union (CSU), which was under Seehofer's leadership. But there is no guarantee that getting tough on immigration will win votes for Germany's centrist parties. While Seehofer spearheaded the government's so-called "Migration Masterplan," the CSU lost votes to both the AfD on the right and the Greens, touting a much more liberal immigration policy, on the left. Last week, Germany's lower house of Parliament also voted to also place Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Georgia on its list of "safe countries of origin," making it much more difficult for asylum-seekers from those countries to gain refugee status. The question is whether they can keep up with these deportations in the long run because it requires a financial and human effort.