Germany’s finance minister has called for a new EU-wide tax on petrol to pay for the refugee crisis.
Wolfgang Schäuble proposed the tax on petrol sales across the EU to pay for the costs of securing the Schengen Area’s external borders against a further influx of migrants.
“Why shouldn’t we deal with this at a European level, if the task is so urgent?” said Mr Schäuble, “We need to secure the Schengen external borders now. We cannot fail to address this problem because of a lack of funds.”
It was not clear whether the UK would be affected by the proposal, as it is not a member of the border-free Schengen Area.
Even if it cannot secure EU-wide agreement, Germany was prepared to implement a tax with a “coalition of the willing”, Mr Schäuble told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
If the EU cannot reach agreement on securing the external borders, Germany may be forced to close its own, the influential finance minister warned. Such a move could prove fatal to the Schengen Agreement.
It would also leave countries such as Greece to deal with the huge numbers of arriving asylum-seekers without German assistance, Mr Schäuble warned.
The finance minister’s intervention comes amid growing pressure on Angela Merkel’s government in the wake of the New Year sex attacks in Cologne.
A second local authority has imposed restrictions on asylum-seekers using a public swimming pool, it has emerged.
The town of Hermeskeil, in western Germany, has not gone as far as Bornheim, near Cologne, which made waves this week by imposing an outright ban on asylum-seekers after a series of alleged incidents of sexual harassment.
Instead the local authority is insisting asylum-seekers obtain a special pass to prove they understand pool etiquette in Germany. To get the pass, they must undergo a short interview.
The restriction was imposed because asylum-seekers were breaking the pool’s rules by swimming in their underwear and jumping next to other swimmers.
Meanwhile authorities in Bornheim have announced they will lift their ban on asylum-seekers next week. Rainer
Schumann, a spokesman for the local council, said the ban was intended as “a signal women’s rights are untouchable”.
Refugees warm themselves around a wood fire on Christmas Day in “The Jungle” in Calais Photo: EPA
The restrictions are an indication of how attitudes to refugees are hardening in Germany.
When a night club in the Bavarian town of Bad Holz started refusing entry to asylum-seekers last year, there was a public outcry.
But in the wake of the Cologne attacks there have been reports of asylum-seekers being turned away by bouncers in other cities.
Across the border in Austria, one bar has made headlines with an openly declared “No asylum-seekers” policy.
Karin Siebrecht-Janisch, the owner of Charly’s Bar in the town of Bad Ischl, said she imposed the ban after male asylum-seekers harassed her customers.
An opinion poll published this week found for the first time a majority of Germans believe the country cannot cope with the refugee numbers it is facing.
Sixty per cent now believe the numbers are unmanageable, up from just 46 per cent before the Cologne attacks, according to the poll for ZDF public television.
The poll makes uncomfortable reading for Mrs Merkel: 56 per cent of those surveyed now believe she is doing a bad job of managing the refugee crisis.
Only 39 per cent approve of her policy. Before the Cologne attacks opinion was evenly split.
Mrs Merkel has pledged to reduce the number of refugees in the country “noticeably”, but so far she is struggling to deliver results with the EU still divided on securing the external borders.
Her government is demanding Morocco and Algeria take back more of their citizens whose attempts to claim asylum in Germany have been rejected.
Thousands of migrants have arrived from the two countries in the last six months, despite the fact they have little chance of being granted asylum.
But German officials have complained Morocco and Algeria are blocking attempts to deport them.
Of the 5,500 Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians ordered to be deported in the first six months of 2015, only 53 were actually sent home, it has emerged.