BERLIN (AFP) – Germany only has capacity for a maximum 200,000 asylum seekers a year, about a fifth of the number it received in 2015, Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said Sunday.
“In Germany, the arrival of 100,000 to a maximum 200,000 asylum seekers and war refugees a year would pose no problem,” Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Bild newspaper.
The CSU, which has been up in arms over Merkel’s welcoming refugee policy, is calling for Germany to cap the number of asylum seekers it takes in.
“Limiting the number of migrants must be the main objective in 2016,” Seehofer said ahead of the CSU’s annual conference this week in the Bavarian mountain resort of Wildbad Kreuth that Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron are scheduled to attend.
“This figure (of 200,000) is tolerable and, in that case, integration would also work properly. For me, anything above that is excessive,” he added, warning of up to 1.5 million arrivals in 2016 unless measures to check the migrant tide were taken.
Merkel has so far categorically refused to set a limit. In her New Year’s address she told Germans the influx was “an opportunity for tomorrow”.
Germany took in almost 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, five times the 2014 tally, local media reported this week, citing unpublished official figures.
Bavaria is the main crossing point into the country for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Seehofer took the chancellor to task on her refugee policy at a CSU meeting in November, where the two shared a stage.
Stung by his criticism Merkel rebounded at a CDU gathering the following month, winning a standing ovation from party members with a speech defending Germany’s “humanitarian responsibility” towards migrants while also calling for a “tangible” reduction in numbers.