BAD STAFFELSTEIN, Germany (Reuters) - German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday he does not expect there to be a repeat of the situation in Germany last year, when migrants were arriving in large numbers and that border controls should remain in place.
Security concerns have grown since about a million, mainly Muslim, migrants arrived in 2015, boosting the popularity of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) and eroding support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
“We agree that in late summer and autumn last year we had a special situation,” de Maiziere told delegates at a conference of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian party long at odds with its sister party, the CDU, over how to tackle the migrant influx.
“This special situation shall not and will not be repeated and this will only happen with joint efforts on the European and also national level,” said the CDU’s de Maiziere.
The CSU wants to cap arrivals at 200,000 per year but Merkel has so far refused that. However, she said on Monday that if Germans did not want uncontrolled migration “then that is exactly what I am fighting for”.
In that speech, made after the CDU suffered a crushing election defeat in the city state of Berlin, she also said that if she knew what changes ordinary Germans wanted to her liberal migrant policy, she would be prepared to think about them.
De Maiziere said he wanted border controls on the Austrian-German border to remain in place beyond mid-November if the situation remained as it is today.
“Of course we want to have the goal of a Schengen zone free of border controls but a requirement for this is the lasting and sustainable protection of our external borders,” de Maiziere said, noting that Germany was working “at full speed” on that.
Germany introduced border controls on Sept. 13, 2015 to stem a daily flow of thousands of refugees. The controls have been extended several times since then, most recently in May for six months.
The CSU’s Joachim Herrmann, who is interior minister for Bavaria - the entry point to Germany for many migrants - welcomed de Maiziere’s announcement on border controls but said Bavaria was not satisfied with their extent.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Michelle Martin and Caroline Copley; Editing by Louise Ireland