German Chancellor Talks of Stricter Control Amid AfD Rise

Olaf Scholz Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz at a Plenary Session of the Bundestag in Berlin, 8 July 2018 (Photo: Inga Kjer/ photothek/Deutscher Bundestag)

Stricter measures to deal with a large number of migrants arriving in Germany have been agreed by German chancellor Olaf Scholz, and state leaders, as NGOs criticised Italy’s plans to create centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers.

According to British newspaper The Guardian, after a marathon session of talks in Berlin that continued into the early hours of Tuesday, Scholz said the decisions of the government would help speed up asylum procedures, restrict social benefits for migrants, and provide more federal funding for local communities.

Social Tensions and Intensifying Pressure

Scholz said the decisions came in a “historic moment”, even as members of the Greens, part of the coalition government, said that cutting social benefits equated to letting asylum seekers live in poverty.

This will simply increase social tensions and make integration even more difficult,” Julian Pahlke, the Green party’s migration expert, told Die Zeit.

Migration has once again become a controversial political challenge for Germany, with the government under pressure from within its own ranks and from the opposition to curb the numbers of people arriving, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Between January and September this year asylum applications rose by about 73 percent compared with the same period last year, to more than 250 000, according to official statistics.

AfD Getting Stronger, Also Getting Classified as Extremist

Meanwhile, German authorities have classified the Alternative for Germany in the state of Saxony-Anhalt as right-wing extremist, the second regional branch of the party in the former communist east to be categorized as such.

The decision, which authorizes heightened surveillance of AfD officials, is significant because the party currently has the strongest support among Saxony-Anhalt’s voters on 33 percent, according to a poll published last month.

At the national level, the anti-immigrant group has benefited from public discontent over the government’s handling of rising numbers of migrants to climb to second in the polls behind the main opposition conservatives.

The classification follows a similar move in the neighboring eastern state of Thuringia and was based on statements by AfD officials which represented a challenge to basic democratic order, according to a statement by the regional domestic intelligence service carried in local media.

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