Angela Merkel defends influx of refugees

Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged yesterday to do “everything humanly possible” to keep Germany safe following a string of attacks — including two carried out by asylum-seekers and claimed by Islamic State (IS) she said mocked the country that took in the assailants.

The attacks brought Ms Merkel fresh criticism for her decision last year to welcome refugees.

More than 1m asylum-seekers were registered in Germany in 2015, although the influx has since slowed dramatically.

Ms Merkel called for a better “early warning system” against signs of radicalisation, faster progress on plans for a centre to help crack encrypted messages, and better international intelligence co-operation, among other measures.

However, she said it is too early to say in detail what more may be required beyond the tightening of asylum and security laws already undertaken recently.

“Wherever there are gaps, we will have to act — just as we have so far — so that it is clear that we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure security in our free, democratic state of law,” she said.

Two of the attacks — an axe rampage near Wuerzburg that wounded five and a suicide bombing that injured 15 in Ansbach — were the first in Germany to be claimed by IS. Both of the attackers, asylum-seekers who arrived over the past two years, were killed.

In two other attacks — a shooting by a German-Iranian 18-year-old in Munich that claimed 10 lives, including the attacker’s, and the stabbing of a woman by a Syrian asylum-seeker in Reutlingen — the motive is still unclear but Islamic extremism is not suspected.

“We will do everything to clear up the barbaric acts, find the people behind them and punish them, and then we will have to decide where further measures are necessary,” said Ms Merkel, adding that Germany owes that to the victims, their relatives, its own security, and also “to all the many innocent refugees”.

Ms Merkel repeated her insistence that Germany “will manage” the challenges of the day.

“I didn’t say 11 months ago that it would be an easy thing we could manage in passing, otherwise I wouldn’t have had to say that sentence,” she said.

“But I am, today as I was then, convinced we will manage to do justice to our historic task. We will also deal with the new challenge we face, Islamist terror.”


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