Angela Merkel tells asylum seekers not to take holidays in their country of origin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Credit: EPA/JENS KOEHLER

Harsher measures should be taken against asylum seekers if they take a holiday in their country of origin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview, in which she also said she had no regrets over her open-door refugee policy.

“Taking holidays in the country in which you are being persecuted is not on,” she said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag, adding that it could be a reason to re-examine an asylum case. 

While there is no official data on asylum seekers returning to their home countries on “holiday”, the issue has been the focus of media reports in Germany.

Leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and candidate for chancellor, Martin Schulz Credit: EPA/SASCHA STEINBACH

Newspaper Die Welt first reported last year that it had uncovered cases of recognised asylum seekers who travelled to countries such as Syria and Afghanistan for a short time before returning to Germany. Martin Retsch, from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said the practice was not “widespread”.

The issue is, however, indicative of the tensions that have built in Germany as a result of the influx of refugees.

Mrs Merkel said she has no regrets over her refugee policy, which saw Germany controversially open its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees two years ago, despite the deep rifts the decision caused in her party.

“I would make all of the important decisions of 2015 the same way again”, she said in the interview yesterday/Sunday. 

Just four weeks ahead of the German election, an Emnid opinion poll on Sunday suggested Merkel’s refugee policy was not likely to lose her the election, putting her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 15 points ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). 

However, 46 per cent of voters have yet to make up their minds, according to a survey for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Martin Schulz, Mrs Merkel’s main challenger, stepped up his attacks yesterday in an attempt to turn around his flagging campaign, labelling the Chancellor “aloof” and “out of touch”.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader said Mrs Merkel had tried to dictate terms for their sole televised debate after she reportedly rejected a television network’s proposals to change up the format to allow for more spontaneity when the pair face off next Sunday.

“More and more people are seeing this as a kind of aloofness that is already playing a big role in this campaign and will mobilise my voters,” said Schulz.

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