Germany planned to close its border with Austria and turn back asylum seekers in September 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, according to a German newspaper report.
In September 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier among them, allegedly agreed to send police officers from all over Germany to the border. The plan was to turn back any and all migrants that didn’t have papers allowing them entry, “including in case of asylum request,” the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.
The newspaper cites research for an upcoming book on Merkel’s refugee policy by journalist Robin Alexander.
The original plan, due to have taken place on Sunday, September 13, was scrapped after German officials voiced legal concerns over the border closure during a meeting at the country’s Interior Ministry.
The stumbling block appeared to be that in the decisive hour, none of the leading politicians was willing to take responsibility, Welt am Sonntag reported, adding that, ultimately, the decision to close the border might have been illegal.
The German chancellor reportedly didn’t make a decision and demanded that the border closure be handled by the courts.
The interior minister was unable to obtain guarantees from the leading officials and police officers that the plan would be legal.
As a result, the already completed order to federal police was rewritten to state that “third-country nationals are to be permitted to enter Germany to apply for asylum without binding identity documents,” Welt am Sonntag reports.
According to Interior Minister de Maiziere, a total of 1.1 million refugees were registered in Germany in 2015 – 428,500 of them from Syria.
Merkel has been under fire over her ‘open-door’migration policy, with anti-migrant sentiment and anti-refugee rallies gaining momentum.
Some 200 people came to the Berlin office of the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in December to protest against the policy. The action was organized by the Identitarian Movement, a pan-European right-wing populist group often described as racist and Islamophobic.