Angela Merkel’s government is on the verge of collapse as her interior minister threatens to quit over her handling of the migration crisis
- Immigration storm could bring her down as coalition partner threatens to resign
- Mountains have become a route for Africans looking for a new life across border
- Thousands have made the trek alone wearing clothes unlikely to protect them
Angela Merkel’s government was on the verge of collapse last night as her interior minister said he was ready to quit over her handling of the migration crisis.
Horst Seehofer told allies he was prepared to resign from his cabinet post and role as leader of her coalition partners, the Christian Social Union.
Mrs Merkel, who has been German chancellor since 2005, is facing intense pressure from the Bavarian sister party to her Christian Democratic Union, who have called for borders to be closed to asylum seekers.
Angela Merkel’s (pictured left) government was on the verge of collapse as her interior minister Horst Seehofer (right) said he was ready to quit
Horst Seehofer told allies he was prepared to resign from his cabinet post and role as leader of her coalition partners, the Christian Social Union
The collapse of Germany’s ruling coalition was only averted after she promised Mr Seehofer that she would reach a deal at a summit in Brussels on Friday. But last night sources said that he was dissatisfied with what she had achieved and was planning to announce his resignation.
Mr Seehofer was said to have blasted the new plan as ‘ineffective’.
The disagreement follows growing discontent over her handling of the 2015 migration crisis, which saw the arrival of more than a million refugees in Germany.
If Mr Seehofer does step down, it is not clear what effect the move would have on the three-week impasse between Mrs Merkel and the CSU, but it is thought the stand-off could bring the end of her fourth term as chancellor.
Mrs Merkel yesterday insisted that a plan to control immigration agreed by EU leaders in the early hours of Friday morning would accomplish what Mr Seehofer wanted.
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‘The sum total of everything we have agreed upon has the same effect,’ she said in an interview with ZDF television. ‘That is my personal opinion. The CSU must naturally decide that for itself.’
But it was reported that Mr Seehofer had told his CSU allies that he did not think the measures were sufficient.
Mr Seehofer, whose party faces a state election in the autumn, has threatened to turn away migrants whose asylum requests Germany already rejected or who already sought sanctuary elsewhere in Europe. Mrs Merkel has rejected that approach, saying Germany needs to address migration at an EU-wide level to preserve unity.
Mrs Merkel and Mr Seehofer met on Saturday night for two hours. The German leader would not comment yesterday on the outcome of the talks.
Migrants intercepted aboard dinghies off the coast in the Strait of Gibraltar, are seen on a rescue boat as they arrive at the port of Tarifa, southern Spain yesterday
EU leaders agreed at last week’s summit to build migrant detention centres. Pictured are migrants off the coast in the Strait of Gibralta
Neither would she speculate on whether she might fire her interior minister or if the issue could lead to a government confidence vote in parliament.
The chancellor said she would wait and see what the leadership of the two parties decides ‘and then we will see what comes next, step for step’.
Mrs Merkel reiterated her position that if countries start turning migrants away at national borders unilaterally, it would cause neighbouring countries to close their borders and jeopardise the EU’s [border free] Schengen Zone.
‘I want Europe to remain together,’ she said. ‘That is why the unified action of Europe is so important to me.’
EU leaders agreed at last week’s summit to build migrant detention centres, but the plan descended into farce as European leaders lined up to refuse to host them. The proposal was billed as an attempt to alleviate pressure on frontline Mediterranean countries, where the vast majority of migrants arrive.
However, French president Emmanuel Macron said he would not host one of the ‘controlled centres’ and Austria’s conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz mocked the prospect of one being built in his country.
Migrants take Alpine route across Europe
In the freezing high passes of the Italian Alps, migrants march slowly up an icy incline as they head for France.
The mountains have become an unlikely route for Africans looking for a new life across the border.
Thousands are thought to have tried to traverse the range over the last few months alone, wearing clothing that is unlikely to protect them from the extreme conditions.
Faced with the policies of Italy’s Right-wing government, asylum seekers who arrive by boat on the country’s Mediterranean shores have headed north instead to reach France.
From there they can move on to Germany, Spain, Belgium, Holland and – ultimately for many – Britain.
Faced with the prospect of mass immigration, police at several border posts are increasingly sending arrivals back to Italy. As a result migrants are using mountain passes, ski resorts and hiking trails to avoid official checks.
Up to half a million migrants are thought to be in Italy, despite the fall in the number arriving – usually from lawless Libya – in boats across the Mediterranean.
Ahead of the summit, Mrs Merkel had warned that the migration challenge could ‘break’ the European Union.
In a hard-hitting speech to the Bundestag, Mrs Merkel said the bloc’s future was in jeopardy unless an overhaul of migration rules was agreed.
She added: ‘Europe has many challenges but that of migration could become the make-or-break one for the EU.’
n Charity rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean face being impounded and their crews risk prosecution, EU leaders have warned. It follows the row over the vessel MV Lifeline, whose captain is accused of disobeying the Libyan coastguard when he picked up 234 migrants.
European Council president Donald Tusk said tougher controls will send a ‘clear message’ to all vessels.
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