German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday defended her open-door policy to refugees in the face of falling poll ratings, saying it was “part of the basic humanity of our country”.
It was not her job to “spread worry” but “to work on finding solutions to the problems”, Merkel told mass-market daily Bild in a lengthy interview.
She voiced understanding for citizens’ fears given the record influx, expected to reach 800,000 to one million this year.
But she stressed that “for me it is part of the basic humanity of our country that one deals with a refugee in a friendly way, as with every other human being”.
Asked whether she could imagine sheltering a refugee at her home, however, she said: “Although I have great respect for the people who do that, I could not imagine that for me now.”
To manage the migrant wave, Germany would have to quickly repatriate rejected asylum-seekers fleeing poverty not war, said the chancellor.
“Newly arrived people without hopes of being allowed to stay will be sent back directly,” she said.
Despite mounting criticism within her conservative party, Merkel said she was “firmly convinced” that the Christian Democrats were behind her, adding that polls “are not my gauge”.
The chancellor also reiterated it was impossible to immediately end the influx of asylum-seekers.
“If someone wants to say ‘let’s stop it now’, then they have to be able to stop it, but it’s not that simple,” she told Bild.
The greatest migration crisis since World War II could only be solved together with Germany’s European and international partners, she said, pointing at the war in Syria.
“The diplomacy of the entire West — but also of the Arab states, Russia and regional powers — has so far been unsuccessful in Syria,” she said.
Merkel added that “the whole of Europe must work to secure the EU’s external borders, while distributing the refugees fairly between the member states”.
She stressed that no new taxes would be raised in Germany to pay for handling the migrant influx.
“We can be pleased that we have managed the economy well for years and that our current economic situation is good,” said Merkel.
She also sought to ally fears that the majority Muslim refugees presented a threat to German society.
Germany would continue to be defined by “the constitution, the social market economy, the freedoms of religion and expression,” she said.