Germany encouraged illegal immigration to Europe with its humanitarian response to the refugee crisis, the Czech prime minister was cited as saying by a German newspaper Wednesday.
Around 1 million refugees and migrants, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, entered the European Union this year, according to the United Nations. The influx has caused a rift between eastern and western members, who disagree on how to respond.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, through which many refugees have traveled but where very few want to settle, have led in their opposition to compulsory quotas for redistributing asylum seekers across the EU bloc.
“Germany has, for the time being, given precedence to the humanitarian aspects of the crisis over security issues,” Bohuslav Sobotka told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published in its Wednesday edition.
“Germany sent a signal that could be seen and heard in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa,” he added. “That stimulated illegal migration to Europe. Unfortunately that cannot be denied.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her refugee policies at a congress of her conservative party last week, saying it had been a “humanitarian imperative” to open German borders to refugees camped out in Hungary back in August.
But in a nod to critics within her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who have pressed her to introduce a formal cap on the number of migrants Germany will accept, she also said she would stem the flow.
Merkel is trying to tackle the influx through negotiations to resolve the war in Syria and by encouraging neighboring Turkey to improve conditions for refugees there, we well as convincing European partners to accept quotas of asylum seekers.