The German government on Tuesday confirmed it had decided to let nearly all refugees from Syria stay in the country, ignoring an E.U. rule that may have required it to transport thousands back to Greece, Italy and other points of entry.
The decision – taken quietly last week but only confirmed yesterday by the government – comes as E.U. nations are struggling to develop a coherent policy to house and care for the migrants across the 28-nation block.
Up to 800,000 refugees are expected to arrive in Germany this year, many from Syria, according to the government, almost four times the level in 2014.
Germany and Sweden have taken the bulk of the immigrants flowing into the E.U. this year, and have tried unsuccessfully to pressure other E.U. nations to take their fair share.
Technically, refugees are supposed to apply for asylum in their first country of entry into the European Union, typically Italy and Greece, under the so-called Dublin Protocol. But those countries, as well as France and other nations, have simply let refugees pass through their borders to Germany and Sweden.
The refugee issue has divided Germans, evoking an outpouring of sympathy and donations, but also fanning right-wing violence and demonstrations at proposed refugee asylum centers.
More than 200 incidents of right-wing violence and threats have been reported against refugees this year. Yesterday, unknown persons started a fire in Nauen, Germany, a town east of Berlin, at a building to house refugees.
Over the weekend, far-right demonstrators fought with police after setting fire to a proposed refugee housing center in Heidenau, a town near Dresden. The ugly scenes of right-wing violence evoked condemnation from the government, and have prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit the town today.
This summer, the refugee issue has occupied Germans like no other, as thousands of arrivals have poured into every corner of the country.
Berliners were appalled by images of thousands of refugees waiting for days in torrid summer heat outside the capital’s asylum registration offices.
Families with children and babies, many from Syria, were left without food or water, batting wasps and standing for hours in the sweltering heat. But media reports prompted a small army of volunteers to turn up, bearing food, clothing and other donations.
Yet, despite the generous outpouring of support, Germany’s authorities are struggling to cope with the massive influx.
Many of those arriving are from war-torn Syria.
Between January and July, Germany registered 44,417 applications from Syria, which has seen over 4 million people flee a brutal civil war that began in March 2011.