Limiting immigration is a “moral and political imperative” and not “unethical”, Germany’s President has said.
Speaking in an interview with radio station WDR, Joachim Gauck warned that Europe cannot take an unlimited number of migrants as countries may be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and fail to integrate new arrivals. To achieve this, he said a cap on numbers may be necessary.
These “control strategies” are a “moral and political imperative”, he said, that will give new migrants the ability to integrate themselves into German society.
His comments echo similar statements he made last month at the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In a keynote speech, Mr Gauck acknowledge that Germans were becoming more sceptical of large-scale immigration: “A cap is not per se unethical: A cap could help to maintain acceptance. Without acceptance, a society cannot be open and receptive.”
Mr Gauck, whose position as German head-of-state is largely ceremonial, also acknowledged that the tone of the debate had changed since the mass sex attacks in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve, raising questions as to whether some migrants really wanted to integrate into Western society.
German leaders are becoming increasingly worried at the huge number of migrants who have now arrived in the country. Earlier this week, Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, who is a member of Angela Merkel’s sister party, said the German government’s open borders policy had “divided Europe”.
He told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the situation in Europe was worrying and the Schengen free movement agreement could be on the verge of collapse.
He joined calls for a cap on migration, saying this would “send an urgent signal that Germany has been exhausted and we cannot just take anyone who wants to come to us.”
Support for the German Chancellor is now at a four-and-a-half year low, with a recent poll finding 81 per cent of respondents did not believe her government was handling the migrant crisis well.
Mrs Merkel’s governing CDU party is still the most popular in the country, but its support is falling while the insurgent anti-mass migration AfD are rising to record highs.
The poll also found 88 per cent of Germans favour cutting benefits for migrants who do not integrate.