October 9, 2015 / 3:16 PM / 2 years ago

German right-wing party accuses Merkel of 'people smuggling'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits in her limousine as she arrives at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, October 9, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - A right-wing German party plans to lodge a legal complaint against Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of “people smuggling” for allowing thousands of asylum seekers into the country after they got stuck on the Hungarian border.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) said on Friday it would make the complaint to the Berlin public prosecutor’s office, hoping that it would open preliminary proceedings against the chancellor.

“Angela Merkel has operated as a smuggler,” deputy party leader Alexander Gauland told reporters.

Responding to the AfD move, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany was governed by the rule of law and that citizens were free to make legal complaints as they saw fit.

Last month, Merkel said asylum seekers were welcome to come to Germany, averting a humanitarian crisis after Hungary - an eastern outpost of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone - tried to stop migrants, largely from the Middle East and Asia, from entering from Serbia, which is not in the EU.

Since then huge numbers have arrived in Germany, straining the ability of authorities to accommodate them and leading to a hardening of public opinion on the crisis. A poll on Wednesday showed support for Merkel’s conservatives slipping while the AfD’s rating climbed.

“Germany’s absorption capacity has been exceeded,” AfD leader Frauke Petry said, pointing to the poll results.

Merkel’s conservative bloc remained by far the most popular group in the Forsa poll with 39 percent support, but this was down a percentage point in the past week and its lowest rating since May. By contrast, the AfD was up two points at 7 percent.

Petry said the government was split on the crisis and could offer no solution.

Merkel is facing growing opposition on the issue within her center-right Christian Democrat (CDU) party and open defiance from its Bavarian counterpart, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The state government of Bavaria, where most asylum seekers are arriving after their journeys across the Aegean and through the Balkans, says it is planning “emergency measures” to slow the flow, including sending some migrants back to neighboring Austria.

This stand by CSU leader and state premier Horst Seehofer is a direct challenge to Merkel, who has refused to accept a cap on numbers. Berlin says that entry into the country is the responsibility of the federal government, not the states.

reporting by Jurik Iser, writing by David Stamp; Editing by Gareth Jones

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