July 16, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Germany may need to rethink its liberal migration policies in the face of rising numbers of undocumented arrivals, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said.

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“We need a change in the migration policy like the asylum compromise from the beginning of the 1990s,” Lindner said in a post on X on Saturday, referring to a 1993 tightening of migration legislation that prevented people entering from a safe third country from being granted asylum.

Since political asylum is guaranteed in the German constitution, a tightening of restrictions would require a two-thirds majority in parliament. Lindner, who is head of the liberal FDP Party, said that Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck from the Greens and CDU leader Friedrich Merz were also open to reform.

The Greens, who together with the FDP form part of Scholz’s SPD-led government, have until now been opposed to any change of the asylum law. But some in the party are beginning to reconsider that position in the face of a growing political threat from the right-wing Alternative for Germany Party.

“If we don’t want the right-wing populists to exploit this topic, then all democratic parties are obliged to help with the search for solutions,” Habeck told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, a conglomerate of local newspapers. The former Green Party leader described the situation as “dramatic.”

More than 204,000 people requested asylum in Germany through August, a 77% increase compared to the same period last year, according to government data. “The capacity in many housing projects is close to zero,” an official from Berlin’s refugee office was quoted by Bild am Sonntag as saying on Sunday.

During a campaign event on Saturday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz also signaled a change of the country’s migration policy, noting that the numbers of people coming to Germany have “increased dramatically.” He called on Poland to investigate reports that officials issued hundreds of thousands of illegal work visas and threatened to restore controls at the Polish border.

Conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz offered Scholz his support for a change of the asylum law. “Let’s do it together, and if you can’t do it with the Greens, then throw them out, then we’ll do it with you – but we have to solve this problem,” Merz said at a CSU party conference in Munich. This is “explosive for the cohesion of our society.”

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